Universals and Crosslinguistic Variations in the Semantic Structure of Predicates

Project leader: Prashant PARDESHI
Professor, Department of Crosslinguistic Studies, NINJAL
Research field: grammar
Keywords: transitivity, voice, tense, aspect, modality

Summary

'Transitivity' is one of the most important linguistic phenomena relating to the semanticosyntactic structure of predicates. The main goal of this project is to shed light on how semantic transitivity is reflected in (i) the construal of an event, (ii) the linguistic encoding of the event and (iii) the acquisition of transitive and intransitive verbs by non-native learners of Japanese. Through detailed investigations of about 40 languages around the globe including Japanese, and crosslinguistic comparisons among these languages, we aim to make a contribution to our understanding of transitivity in individual languages as well as the unity and diversity underlying human languages.

The project consists of 3 teams: (A) the Linguistic typology team, (B) the Psycholinguistics team and (C) the Language Acquisition team. The methodology and major goals of each team are as follows.

(A) the Linguistic typology team: Starting with the morphological relationship between transitive and intransitive verbs, researchers in this team provide detailed morpho-syntactic descriptions of canonical and non-canonical events encoded with transitive and intransitive verbs based on primary data. Further, cross-linguistic studies are carried out with a view to unraveling the similarities and differences among languages of the world including Japanese.

(B) the Psycholinguistics team: The team aims to shed light on the relationship between perception of the external world and the use of language in general and use of transitive and intransitive verbs in particular by eliciting linguistic responses using non-linguistic stimuli (such as video clips, questionnaires).

(C) the Language Acquisition team: This team aims to unravel similarities and differences in the process of the acquisition of Japanese (L2) by non-native learners who are speakers of a typologically different native tongue (L1).