Result verbs, scalar change, and the typology of motion verbs

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In this paper we consider the nature of ‘result verbs’, typically defined as verbs describing scalar changes, which have played a significant role in literature on verb typologies, event structures, and theories of (im)possible word meanings. We argue that the entailment of scalar change and the entailment of a new result state should not be wholly conflated. Rather, various previously proposed diagnostics for scalar change actually pick out at least two distinct notions — entailing change along a scale regardless of whether a new state obtains for the theme argument more broadly and change along a scale that does result in a new state more narrowly. We specifically examine verbs of manner-of-motion, with a special emphasis on the verb climb, and show that there is a subclass of manner-of-motion verbs that entail scalar change without a new result and are themselves also crossclassified by other standard distinctions among scalar change verbs. These observations have several consequences. First, manner-of-motion verbs are not as distinct from path verbs as prior work in the Talmy typology has suggested. Second, prior diagnostics for identifying result verbs and subtypes of result verbs are sensitive to the various distinctions we propose, producing more nuanced results than previously assumed. Third, the observation that a large swath of manner-of-motion verbs also have result entailments further supports Beavers & Koontz-Garboden’s (2012) conclusion that there is no truth conditional manner/result complementarity in verb meaning, expanding the base of potential counterexamples and raising questions about how the claim is meant to be interpreted.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)842-876
Issue number4
Early online date4 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2017

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