Aktionsart coercion

Nicole Barber

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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This study aimed to investigate English Aktionsart coercion, particularly novel coercion, through corpora-based research. Novel coercions are those which need some contextual support in order to make sense of or be grammatical. Due to the nature of the data, a necessary part of the study was the design of a program to help in the process of tagging corpora for Aktionsart. This thesis starts with a discussion of five commonly accepted Aktionsarten: state, activity, achievement, accomplishment, and semelfactive. One significant contribution of the thesis is that it offers a comprehensive review and discussion of various theories that have been proposed to account for Aktionsart or aspectual coercion, as there is no such synthesis available in the literature. Thus the thesis moves on to a review of many of the more prominent works in the area of Aktionsart coercion, including Moens and Steedman (1988), Pustejovsky (1995), and De Swart (1998). I also present a few theories drawn from less prominent studies by authors in the area who have different or interesting views on the topic, such as Bickel (1997), Krifka (1998), and Xiao and McEnery (2004). In order to study the Aktionsart coercion of verbs in large corpora, examples of Aktionsart coercion needed to be collected. I aimed to design a computer program that could ideally perform a large portion of this task automatically. I present the methods I used in designing the program, as well as the process involved in using it to collect data. Some major steps in my research were the tagging of corpora, counting of coercion 3 frequency by type, and the selection of representative examples of different types of coercion for analysis and discussion. All of the examples collected from the corpora, both by my Aktionsart-tagging program and manually, were conventional coercions. As such there was no opportunity for an analysis of novel coercions. I nevertheless discuss the examples of conventional coercion that I gathered from the corpora analysis, with particular reference to Moens and Steedman’s (1988) theory. Three dominant types of coercion were identified in the data: from activities into accomplishments, activities into states, and accomplishments into states. There were two main ways coercions taking place in the data: from activity to accomplishment through the addition of an endpoint, and from various Aktionsarten into state by coercing the event into being a property of someone/something. Many of the Aktionsart coercion theories are supported at least in part by the data found in natural language. One of the most prominent coercions that is underrepresented in the data is from achievement to accomplishment through the addition of a preparatory process. I conclude that while there are reasons for analysing Aktionsart at verb phrase or sentence level, this does not mean the possibility of analyses at the lexical level should be ignored.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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