Pinching loudly doesn't hurt: Adverb Modification and the Conceptual Structure of Events in Language and Cognition
09 / 2012 - 08 / 2016
Modification changes the meaning of the modified word by adding or changing properties. But this process is not always a transparent addition of the property expressed by the modifier to the concept of the modified word. The application of modifiers underlies certain restrictions and changes the meaning of the modified word in intricate ways. Although a lot is known about the general mechanisms, the precise process is largely undiscovered. I argue that the key to the modification process lies in the interaction between perceptual and linguistic properties of the modifying and the modified concepts. In this research project, I will focus on verb-adverb combinations, specifically on combinations of verbs of motion and contact with manner adverbs, to determine the specifics of the modification process. The proposed research combines state-of-the-art quantitative and qualitative methods to arrive at a model of the meaning of the verbs before and after modification. That is, a corpus and a questionnaire study will provide the data for modelling the linguistic properties of the verbs in a conceptual space. A pile-sorting experiment of videos showing the events referred to by the verbs will provide the data for modelling the perceptual properties of the verbs. The insights on which I base the final formalisation of the modification process will be obtained through a set of complementary experiments. Participants have to (i) choose a video showing an event to match a verb-adverb combination and (ii) choose a modifier for a verb based on a video showing an event. This research will bridge the gap between perceptual/psychological and mathematical/formal approaches to language and derive important insights into linguistic processes, valid in both psychology and philosophy.