The Causative Component of Locative and Psychological Verbs

Edit Doron, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The paper investigates the morphosemantics of psychological (psych) verbs. The main aim of the study is to clarify the role of causation in the semantics of psych verbs. A second aim is to clarify the locative semantics of these verbs.

Psych verbs denote a family of relations between the so-called Experiencer and the “Object of emotion” (often called T/SM since Pesetsky 1995). The present paper studies these relations from the perspective of the morphosyntax of verbs in Hebrew. In Semitic in general, the verbal template morphology reflects the different roles of Agent (including Force) and Cause through the contrast between the intensive and causative templates. Some psych relations form a subtype of the causative relation and are thus expressed in the causative template, whereas others are not causative, and are expressed in the intensive template.

The results of the present study are indicative of the basic semantic roles which are lexicalized in natural language. The main contrast is between Cause on the one hand and Agent/Force on the other, which are roles typically aligned as the verb’s external argument. Roles aligned as internal arguments include on the one hand locative roles such as Location and Locatum, and on the other hand the Theme role (undergoer of a change of state or location).

The present study shows that psych verbs, though describing the mental rather than the physical domain, actually do not lexicalize new roles. Psych verbs can be construed as different relations, but the participant roles in these relations are the same as in the physical realm of locative verbs. The roles of “Experiencer” and “T/SM” can actually be replaced by more familiar roles from the domain of locative verbs. The present study thus reinforces the conclusions of DeLancey 1981 and Landau 2010.

The morphosyntax of Hebrew reflects the three different psych verb construals proposed by Scott DeLancey. Under one of these construals, psych verbs denote a locative state: the T/SM located within the experiencer’s mind. Under a second construal, psych verbs denote a change in the state of mind of the experiencer. Both the locative state and the change of state can be viewed as caused either by the T/SM or by a different cause. Both causative relations are expressed in the Semitic verbal system by dedicated causative morphology, the causative template.

Under a third construal, psych verbs denote a Force entering the Experiencer’s consciousness. This is represented in Semitic by a different type of verbal morphology, the intensive template, which is known to describe agentive events, including events where there is no action taking place, but the presence of an inactive yet effective Force.

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