What with? The Anatomy of a -Role: Articles

Journal of Semantics 25 (2):175-220 (2008)
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This paper describes a comprehensive survey of English verbs that semantically allow or require an Instrument role. It sheds light on the nature of Instrument roles and instrumentality by examining the distribution in semantic space of those verbs. We show first that verbs that semantically require instruments are typically semantically more complex than predicted by current theories of the structural complexity of verb meanings. We also show that verbs that require or allow instruments constrain the end states of situations they describe more than they constrain the agent's initial activity. Our survey further suggests that the causal role played by the instrument is more varied than suggested by previous studies and requires the introduction of a new subtype of causal relation, which we dub helping. Finally, our survey demonstrates that verbs that semantically require an instrument cluster together more closely in semantic space and constrain the instrument's role and properties more than verbs that merely allow the presence of an instrument.



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Jean-Pierre Koenig
State University of New York at Buffalo

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