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A Cognitive Study on the English Caused-motion Construction

Chapter One Introduction
 

1.1 Definition of the Caused-motion Construction

In this thesis, we define the syntactic configuration NP1+ V +NP2+PP as theEnglish caused-motion construction (in active form). in this configuration, v denotesan action performed by the causer argument (NP1), which causes the theme argument(NP2) move towards someplace (PP), denoted by a preposition phrase. It can beexemplified by the following sentences:(1) They laughed the poor guy out of the room.(2) Frank sneezed the tissue off the table.(3) Mary urged Bill into the house.(4) Sue let the water out of the bathtub.(5) Sam helped him into the car.(6) They sprayed the paint onto the wall.(Goldberg, 1995:152)The basic semantics of this construction is that the causer argument directly causes thetheme argument to move along a path designated by the directional phrase, that is, XCAUSES Y to MOVE Z (Goldberg, 1995:152).

 
1.2 Objectives of the Study
Due to its ubiquity and crucial role in organizing people’s experience,the issue ofEnglish caused-motion construction attracts much attention from linguists all over theworld, it has been more or less studied or touched in the literature from differentperspectives. However, up till now, a full and satisfactory explanation has not beenarrived, and thus it leaves a space for my study.Previous studies on the caused-motion construction generally fall into four domains. One is the transformational approach of argument structure that proposedderiving caused-motion expressions from an underlying structures consisting of twopropositions, which is represented by Fillmore1971, Layoff 1976 and Lakoff & Ross1976 (see Goldberg, 1995). The second is the projection principle, it believed that theargument structure of caused-motion construction is determined by the main verb (seeGoldberg1995, Shen Jiaxuan 2007). the third is the compositional approach whichargued that the meaning of caused-motion expressions do not require positingadditional verb senses, it can be compositionally derived from composing themeaning of the constituent parts. the fourth is cognitive approach, which is mainlyrepresented by Goldberg(1995), Professor Cheng Qilong & Mei Wensheng (2008),professor Zhang hui (2003), professor Pan Yanyan & Zhang Hui (2005).However, to some extent, the three former approaches fail to offer a satisfactoryaccount. The transformational approach cannot explain why in any case, manyexpressions commonly related by transformations do not have identical truthconditions (see Goldberg, 1995). The projection approach lack persuasion when weuse it to explain some untypical expression. For example:(7) He sneezed the foam off the cappuccino. (Goldberg, 1995)If we explain the argument structure from the side of semantic projection, the onlythings we can say is X causes Y to move Z through sneeze. But in fact, usually,sneeze is an intransitive verb, so it seems unacceptable to say that the three argumentsare determined by its verbs meaning. (Shen Jiaxuan, 2007:77). A general problemwith compositional accounts is that this explanation can’t explain why some argumentconstructions can exist with some verbs (see Goldberg 1995, Shen Jiaxuan 2007).Compared with traditional approach, cognitive approach has given us a morepowerful interpreting on this linguistic phenomenon. However, there still have someinadequacies. Firstly, according to Leek (see Yuan Ye, 2007),



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