Claudio Iacobini Carla Vergaro

The role of inference in motion event encoding / decoding: a cross-linguistic inquiry into English and Italian

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In this paper we compare motion event encoding / decoding in English and Italian using authentic data taken from translated texts, and we investigate how English sentences using a manner verb as main verb may receive a directional reading in a prevalently Verb-framed language like Italian, i.e. a language which lacks inherently directional particles, or other specific morphological means expressing telic directional meaning. We analyze directional boundary and non-boundary-crossing events and also use self-contained motion verbs as a comparative element. Analysis of our corpus shows that Italian uses manner verbs to en¬code dislocational events in about 42% of the cases, and that, contrary to our expectations, a similar percentage of manner verbs is used both in non boundary (42.6%) and boundary-crossing events (38.5%). Moreover, manner verbs are used in about 85% of Italian sentences expressing self-contained motion events. In the discussion we illustrate how the semantic profiles of manner verbs differ in their availability to encode directional events: the encoding / decoding of dislocational meaning results from the interplay of inferential factors and linguistic means of different sorts distributed in the sentence which interact with the verb meaning.


  • English
  • Inference
  • Italian
  • Lexical Typology
  • Manner
  • Motion


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