A corpus-based, cross-linguistic approach to mental predicates and their complementation: Performativity and descriptivity vis-à-vis boundedness and picturability
Summary (3 min read)
- Language provides speakers with ample opportunities to express the same idea in different ways.
- I have always believed in fate and destiny.
- Ultimately, therefore, empirical inquiries into the determinants of constructional choices are important both descriptively and theoretically.
- Regarding the semantic attributes of the complements of mental predicates, it is hypothesized that more concrete objects of greater picturability will correspond to third-person singular uses of mental predicates, while complements designating objects that are relatively more abstract and hence less picturable will be linked more immediately to firstperson subjects.
- The methodology employed in this study is known as Profile-Based Analysis or Multifactorial Usage-Feature Analysis.
- The fundamental assumption here is that contextualized language use can give us an insight into the structure of language, whether within a single linguistic community or across different speech communities.
- Two specific steps are followed in any study employing this methodology.
- This procedure of qualitative analysis of hundreds and commonly thousands of observations results in a very complex multidimensional grid of usage features.
- The data for this study were extracted from the newspaper and magazine sections of the Corpus of Contemporary American English (Davies 2008–2013) and the National Corpus of Polish (Pęzik 2012).
- + MENTAL PREDICATE + CLAUSE), (THIRD PERSON SG.
- In English and German, both simple-pastand perfect-tense forms were extracted.
- The hypothesis in question, as put forward in Section 1 (see Table 1), states that clausal complements are expected to be associated more significantly with first-person singular uses of the verbs, while nominal complementation is hypothesized to be more typical of the third-person occurrences of the predicates.
- Taking equal numbers of such observations or determining the proportions arbitrarily would skew the results.
- All the contextualized examples were annotated for four variables (or factors), each involving binary distinctions (or levels).
- It was assumed that objects that are bounded, either spatially or temporally, and that can be easily pictured or imagined are relatively more concrete and graspable, whereas those that are unbounded and non-picturable can be understood to be comparatively more abstract and considerably less tangible.
- Note that the examples given in (3) and (4) could well be clausal complements of the mental predicates under analysis in this study.
- First, the authors have the specific activity performed by a specific person at her bed, which must have been witnessed by the speaker and so it can be easily brought back in memory and vividly so.
- This procedure was motivated by the fact that some inconsistencies were identified in the understanding of the two categories between the two annotators.
- This section presents the quantitative results of the study.
- First, in Section 4.1, the authors will test the formal hypothesis concerning the distribution of clausal and nominal complements.
- Given the simple binary nature of the hypothesis, this will be attained through the use of the bivariate Chi-square test for independence.
- Second, in Section 4.2, the authors will test their hypothesis regarding the semantic characteristics of the complement.
- To that purpose, wewill employ the exploratory method of binary correspondence analysis and the confirmatory method of mixed-effects logistic regression modeling.
4.1 Formal hypothesis testing
- The authors test the first hypothesis put forward in Section 1 concerning the relation between the grammatical person of the mental predicate and the form of the complement.
- It was also assumed that such results will be obtained irrespective of both the type of mental predicate involved and the language that is sampled.
- The next strongest correlates for clausal complementation are first-person occurrences of think and believe in English and myśleć ‘think’ in Polish, followed by third-person uses of denken ‘think’ in German and first-person uses of wierzyć ‘believe’ in Polish.
- When the authors consider the visualization for nominal complementation in the second dot plot in Figure 2, they can observe an overall pattern that mirrors that found in the first dot plot.
- As the results in this section demonstrate, their hypothesis regarding the influence of grammatical person on the choice of the complement type finds only partial support.
4.2 Semantic hypothesis testing
- The second hypothesis, regarding the relation between the grammatical person and the conceptual properties of the complement, is tested through multivariate statistical modeling.
- First, the exploratory method of binary correspondence analysis will be employed to identify the behavioral tendencies of the predicates in their functional context of use (i. e., language, grammatical person, and the conceptual characteristics of the complement).
- Next, the confirmatory technique of mixed-effects logistic regression analysis will be used to see whether any of the patterns thus identified are statistically significant and accurate in both predictive and descriptive terms.
4.2.1 Exploratory results
- The exploratory results are visualized in Figure 3.
- Evidence that would support their hypothesis should indicate positive correlations between the first-person occurrences of the predicates and objects that are non-bounded and non-picturable.
- A cluster for this type of objects is centered on the y-axis, being thus spread across the bottom half of the plot.
- ‘Also he did not believe that she was sick.’ (16) Er verstand nichts von den mathematischen Gesetzen der Bewegung.
- This type of objects is also correlated strongly with the third-person uses of understand in English and the relevant equivalent in Polish and, to a lesser degree, with the third-person occurrences of think and believe in English.
4.2.2 Confirmatory results
- The authors turn to confirmatory statistical modeling of the choice between the first-person and third-person construal with mental predicates relative to the conceptual properties of the complement.
- Variables were not treated as random here, they would be likely to affect the results to a greater or lesser extent.
- The effect size of this association, which can be evaluated on the basis of the estimate value provided in the second column of Table 8 and which serves to establish the relative importance of a given feature in predicting the outcome, is rather negligible.
- Incidentally, in the model where boundedness and picturability were treated separately and where the former variable alone turned out to be significant, the results were parallel.
- The present paper has addressed the question of the constructional profile or construal imposed by the grammatical person on the complement of mental predicates.
- In examining this question, the authors had two objectives, one descriptive, the other theoretical.
- Binary distinctions in semantics, which only allow for the presence or absence of a given usage characteristic, are likely to fail to account for any subtle variation, which normally cannot be expressed in dichotomous terms.
- This in itself is an interesting finding, even if negative, as it implies that the answer to the difference in construal between descriptive and performative uses of mental predicates is more likely to lie in their semantic and pragmatic features than in their syntactic patterning.
- The authors would like to express their gratitude to the two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.
Did you find this useful? Give us your feedback
Related Papers (2)
Frequently Asked Questions (2)
Q1. What have the authors contributed in "Folia linguistica" ?
This corpus-based study investigates the complementation patterns of mental predicates in a cross-linguistic context. Descriptively, the authors aim to identify the differences in construing the complement ofmental predicates, depending on the grammatical person of the syntactic subject. Theoretically, the authors provide empirical evidence that is relevant for the long-recognized distinction between performativity and descriptivity of mental verbs.
Q2. What are the future works in "Folia linguistica" ?
More precisely, the aim was to provide further empirical evidence for the findings obtained in prior research into mental predicates in Polish by testing two hypotheses, one concerning a syntactic alternation between two complement types, the other focusing on the semantic properties of the complement. The findings that the authors obtain here, however, are revealing and provide valuable feedback, both on the methodological and theoretical plane. This is because the speaker attributes a given mental state to another “ nonlocal ” ( Bresnan et al. 2007 ) person, and so it may be assumed that such reified and concrete objects will be more easily attributable to others. Indisputably, elegance and simplicity of explanations, which the authors were striving for in the present inquiry, are of great significance in empirical research.