Article published in:Meta-informative Centering in Utterances: Between Semantics and Pragmatics
Edited by André Włodarczyk and Hélène Włodarczyk
[Studies in Language Companion Series 143] 2013
► pp. 21–40
Frames of semantic situations
In different languages, the means of expressing a situation are shared variously between grammar and lexicon and must be represented by semantic configurations specific to a particular language (or family of languages). Situations are semantic ‘nests’ for several verbs which allow for the expression of a variety of aspects in the course of communication. For this reason, from a theoretical point of view, semantic situations can be seen as independent of the language in which they are expressed. Research into aspect in diverse languages showed that an aspect could not be explained without first describing the semantic situation. Thus numerous attempts have been made to classify semantic situations, especially after the classification proposed by Z. Vendler (1957 and 1967) for explaining aspect in English. As verbs in natural languages normally express complex situations, semantic situations are made up of other situations, with the result that it is possible to speak of situational aggregates. In other words, situations are mixed up with one another. We maintain, however, that it is possible to separate out a number of situation types and their constituent parts by considering the possibility of classifying them from two points of view. We will hypothesise a distinction between frame situations and role situations. In this article we will consider frame situations alone. Role situations are dealt with in the preceding chapter. Some of the criteria used in our approach have been variously taken into account by different theoreticians, but most have confused the frame/role distinction and have thus arrived at less homogeneous classifications than our own. Looking somewhat further ahead, we think that situations can equally be classified according to their role components, which could be by showing their interactions (situations that are intransitive, transitive, convertible etc.) or their relationship with, amongst other things, centres of attention that are global (subject) or local (object), or again, the nature, countable or otherwise, of the participants, but we will not be dealing with these here. The aim of this study is to define situations from the point of view of their “internal construction” (i.e. without taking into account modality, tense, aspect etc.) It is indeed desirable (1) to put forward a coherent system of classifying situations based on a small group of well defined primitives and (2) to show the way in which different verbal expressions, used in context, may inherit characteristics from partially organised (hierarchised) situations, taking into account the primitives that have been identified.
Published online: 18 December 2013
Cited by 1 other publications
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