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A Korean grammar on semantic-pragmatic principles by Ki-dong Yi

By Ki-dong Yi

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Whereas the basic meaning of the construction conveys the idea of a physical transfer, the examples in (9) express the relation between a cause and an effect. Causal relations are thus metaphorically understood as events of giving and receiving. A noise that causes a headache can be described as ‘giving me a headache’. A flood that causes the destruction of a bathroom could, under a rather optimistic outlook on life, be construed as ‘bringing an opportunity for remodelling’. The semantic spectrum of the Ditransitive construction further includes transfers that will only occur in the future, acts that facilitate reception of an object, and acts that block a potential transfer.

However, Goldberg (1995) argues that argument structure cannot be wholly explained in terms of lexical entries alone. An important piece of evidence in this regard is that speakers occasionally use verbs ‘creatively’, that is, with argument structures that are not conventionally associated with the respective verbs. The following examples illustrate that phenomenon. (3) John played the piano to pieces. He pulled himself free, one leg at a time. No matter how carefully you lick a spoon clean, some goo will cling to it.

Still, Chomsky would have a point if the quote were altered to ‘A single, isolated example never tells you what is impossible. ’ So, if that is the case, how can we determine what is possible and impossible? For a long time, linguists have approached the issue by constructing examples and judging the grammaticality of those examples, using their intuitions. Using intuitions as the only source of evidence is methodologically highly problematic (Schütze 1996), and for readers of this book who are non-native speakers of English it might not even be feasible.

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