Related intuitions and the mental representation of causative verbs in adults and children

Gy. Gergely, Thomas G. Bever

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Several lines of investigation refute the empirical basis for previous claims that experiments on subjective word relatedness demonstrate the psychological unreality of decompositional semantic representations for lexical causatives. Using three different techniques, we show that perceived relatedness between words is not a function of their structural distance at different levels of linguistic representation. Therefore, relatedness intuitions cannot be used as a critical test of the relative structural complexity of underlying syntactic or semantic representations. In contrast, subjective relatedness between nouns of structurally identical sentences are clearly affected by aspects of their conceptual interpretation, such as the 'definiteness' and 'concreteness' of the denoted entities, the intensity of their 'intentional interaction', or the 'directness of causation' expressed. The meaning of lexical causatives cannot be accounted for in terms of a prototype concept of direct causation. The prototype theory generates wrong predictions about the referential use of causative verbs in adults. It also fails to account for facts in the acquisition of lexical causatives. There is a stage of broad causative generalization when the use of both existing and novel causative verbs is extended to non-prototypical as well as prototypical causative events. We propose a bi-level lexical representation of causative verbs, which consists of (i) a decompositional - but non -definitional - semantic representation articulating their causative status, and (ii) a contextually attached conceptual stereotype specifying their range of application as a function of their context of use. The decomposable semantic structure emerges as a developmental stage in the acquisition of lexical concepts as a result of the linguistic reorganization of the lexicon. The conceptual stereotype becomes embedded later as part of the representation available in the mental lexicon for access by adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-277
Number of pages67
JournalCognition
Volume23
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1986

Fingerprint

Intuition
intuition
Semantics
Linguistics
semantics
Causality
stereotype
linguistics
Psychology
reorganization
Mental Representation
Causative
Causative Verbs
interpretation
event
experiment
interaction
Semantic Representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Related intuitions and the mental representation of causative verbs in adults and children. / Gergely, Gy.; Bever, Thomas G.

In: Cognition, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1986, p. 211-277.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{7250fb1ae2ee4106888e5a690fbc9297,
title = "Related intuitions and the mental representation of causative verbs in adults and children",
abstract = "Several lines of investigation refute the empirical basis for previous claims that experiments on subjective word relatedness demonstrate the psychological unreality of decompositional semantic representations for lexical causatives. Using three different techniques, we show that perceived relatedness between words is not a function of their structural distance at different levels of linguistic representation. Therefore, relatedness intuitions cannot be used as a critical test of the relative structural complexity of underlying syntactic or semantic representations. In contrast, subjective relatedness between nouns of structurally identical sentences are clearly affected by aspects of their conceptual interpretation, such as the 'definiteness' and 'concreteness' of the denoted entities, the intensity of their 'intentional interaction', or the 'directness of causation' expressed. The meaning of lexical causatives cannot be accounted for in terms of a prototype concept of direct causation. The prototype theory generates wrong predictions about the referential use of causative verbs in adults. It also fails to account for facts in the acquisition of lexical causatives. There is a stage of broad causative generalization when the use of both existing and novel causative verbs is extended to non-prototypical as well as prototypical causative events. We propose a bi-level lexical representation of causative verbs, which consists of (i) a decompositional - but non -definitional - semantic representation articulating their causative status, and (ii) a contextually attached conceptual stereotype specifying their range of application as a function of their context of use. The decomposable semantic structure emerges as a developmental stage in the acquisition of lexical concepts as a result of the linguistic reorganization of the lexicon. The conceptual stereotype becomes embedded later as part of the representation available in the mental lexicon for access by adults.",
author = "Gy. Gergely and Bever, {Thomas G.}",
year = "1986",
doi = "10.1016/0010-0277(86)90035-1",
language = "English",
volume = "23",
pages = "211--277",
journal = "Cognition",
issn = "0010-0277",
publisher = "Elsevier",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Related intuitions and the mental representation of causative verbs in adults and children

AU - Gergely, Gy.

AU - Bever, Thomas G.

PY - 1986

Y1 - 1986

N2 - Several lines of investigation refute the empirical basis for previous claims that experiments on subjective word relatedness demonstrate the psychological unreality of decompositional semantic representations for lexical causatives. Using three different techniques, we show that perceived relatedness between words is not a function of their structural distance at different levels of linguistic representation. Therefore, relatedness intuitions cannot be used as a critical test of the relative structural complexity of underlying syntactic or semantic representations. In contrast, subjective relatedness between nouns of structurally identical sentences are clearly affected by aspects of their conceptual interpretation, such as the 'definiteness' and 'concreteness' of the denoted entities, the intensity of their 'intentional interaction', or the 'directness of causation' expressed. The meaning of lexical causatives cannot be accounted for in terms of a prototype concept of direct causation. The prototype theory generates wrong predictions about the referential use of causative verbs in adults. It also fails to account for facts in the acquisition of lexical causatives. There is a stage of broad causative generalization when the use of both existing and novel causative verbs is extended to non-prototypical as well as prototypical causative events. We propose a bi-level lexical representation of causative verbs, which consists of (i) a decompositional - but non -definitional - semantic representation articulating their causative status, and (ii) a contextually attached conceptual stereotype specifying their range of application as a function of their context of use. The decomposable semantic structure emerges as a developmental stage in the acquisition of lexical concepts as a result of the linguistic reorganization of the lexicon. The conceptual stereotype becomes embedded later as part of the representation available in the mental lexicon for access by adults.

AB - Several lines of investigation refute the empirical basis for previous claims that experiments on subjective word relatedness demonstrate the psychological unreality of decompositional semantic representations for lexical causatives. Using three different techniques, we show that perceived relatedness between words is not a function of their structural distance at different levels of linguistic representation. Therefore, relatedness intuitions cannot be used as a critical test of the relative structural complexity of underlying syntactic or semantic representations. In contrast, subjective relatedness between nouns of structurally identical sentences are clearly affected by aspects of their conceptual interpretation, such as the 'definiteness' and 'concreteness' of the denoted entities, the intensity of their 'intentional interaction', or the 'directness of causation' expressed. The meaning of lexical causatives cannot be accounted for in terms of a prototype concept of direct causation. The prototype theory generates wrong predictions about the referential use of causative verbs in adults. It also fails to account for facts in the acquisition of lexical causatives. There is a stage of broad causative generalization when the use of both existing and novel causative verbs is extended to non-prototypical as well as prototypical causative events. We propose a bi-level lexical representation of causative verbs, which consists of (i) a decompositional - but non -definitional - semantic representation articulating their causative status, and (ii) a contextually attached conceptual stereotype specifying their range of application as a function of their context of use. The decomposable semantic structure emerges as a developmental stage in the acquisition of lexical concepts as a result of the linguistic reorganization of the lexicon. The conceptual stereotype becomes embedded later as part of the representation available in the mental lexicon for access by adults.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0022767544&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0022767544&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/0010-0277(86)90035-1

DO - 10.1016/0010-0277(86)90035-1

M3 - Article

C2 - 3791916

AN - SCOPUS:0022767544

VL - 23

SP - 211

EP - 277

JO - Cognition

JF - Cognition

SN - 0010-0277

IS - 3

ER -