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Transcript
Meaning  Text Theory: Recent
Developments
Leonid L. Iomdin
Computational Linguistics Laboratory, Institute for Information
Transmission Problems, Russian Academy of Sciences
Abstract
The talk will cover important contributions to MTT by the
Moscow Semantic School:
 a new theory of lexical functions by Jury Apresjan, which
shows in particular that even syntactically-driven lexical
functions of the Oper-Func family have lexical meanings of
their own and are therefore semantically motivated;
 an extended theory of semantic valences by Igor
Boguslavsky, which offers a broad generalization of the
notion of valence and is used to explain complex semantic
interactions of lexical units in natural language utterances;
 3) a theory of microsyntax by Leonid Iomdin, which provides a
theoretical basis for a uniform description and treatment of
syntactic idioms as well as a variety of minor type syntactic
phenomena.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
2
Plan
1. MTT in brief
2. Lexical Functions: the modern view
3. Theory of Valence: new approaches
4. Microsyntax: in Pursue of the
Integrated Description of Language
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
3
1. MTT in brief
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
4
Classical Version of MTT
Object of modeling: the phenomenon of language
command
The overall view of language in MTT is extremely simple.
The language is a means with the help of which its
speakers perform two operations:
1) They communicate their ideas to other people, i.e. they
code certain senses with texts that express them (text
production, generation, synthesis);
2) They understand ideas of other people, i.e. they perform
the reverse operation of extracting senses from the text
perceived (text understanding, or analysis).
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
5
Classical Version of MTT
MTT can be viewed as a logical device simulating
these two operations in their simplest
manifestations, associated exclusively with the
knowledge of the language (the dictionary and
the grammar).
Even though wholly unrestricted communication
without the knowledge of the external world, the
dialogue partner, communication situation etc,
consideration of these factors go far beyond
linguistic models in the proper sense.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
6
Classical Version of MTT
Of these two operations, the active
operation of text production is viewed as
more important: the phenomenon of
language acquisition manifests here in
full.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
7
Classical Version of MTT
This phenomenon consists of three human abilities:
1) The ability of choosing appropriate language
units that express the required meaning. It is
ensured by the speaker’s knowledge of word
senses.
2) The ability to correctly combine linguistic units
that have the required meaning.
3) The ability to paraphrase one’s utterances
retaining its content.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
8
Classical Version of MTT
One of the main theses of classical MTT is as follows:
world languages dispose of several dozens of very
abstract meaninfs like ‘high degree’, ‘beginning’,
‘causation’, ‘liquidation’ etc., called Lexical Functions.
The choice of a concrete word W to express this meaning
is fully determined by the lexical properties of its
argument X, with which W combines. We say
кромешная тьма ‘black darkness’ and мертвая
тишина ‘dead silence’, but not
*мертвая тьма and *кромешная тишина.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
9
Classical Version of MTT
Hence, the choice of W for value of this LF of X is
semantically unmotivated, i.e. idiomatic.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
10
2. Lexical Functions:
the Modern View
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
11
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
In the MTT, lexical functions of the OPERLABOR-FUNC are considered to be
semantically empty and phraseologically bound,
so that the choice of a verb as a value of a
given LF appears to be semantically
unmotivated.
There are certain reservations, however. Mel’čuk
and Zholkovsky say that OPER’s, FUNC’s and
LABOR’s are verbs that turn semantically empty
in the context of the keyword.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
12
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
Apresjan assumes that any verb of the OPERLABOR-FUNC family has its own lexical
meaning (i.e. it can never be semantically
empty), which is why its choice for the role of a
given LF for an argument is semantically
motivated, though not always free. The extent
of semantic motivation is different from different
LFs.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
13
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
In somewhat more precise terms, the choice of
a specific word L1 as value of a function F1
whose argument is noun X is partially motivated
by the general meaning of F1, the lexical
meaning of L1 and the fact that X belongs to a
specific class or subclass of the fundamental
semantic classification of predicates.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
14
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
It is growing with transition from OPERs to
LABORs and FUNCs, and within any of the
classes it grows from smaller index numbers to
bigger index numbers. For instance, OPER1 as
a whole is semantically less meaningful and
less motivated than OPER2: an obvious reason
being than the number of words representing
OPER1 is many times larger than that of
OPER2.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
15
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
Apresjan further showed that all words that act as
values of certain lexical functions for specific
argument words are semantically meaningful
and accordingly have their own lexical
meanings. The effect of emptiness emerges
due to the fact that the meaning of the LF like
OPER1 and OPER2 is fully included into the
meaning of the keyword.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
16
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
For example, if one considers words with the meaning
of a speech act, the value of OPER1 for these words
is likely to be давать ‘give’ (in the metaphorical
sense of transferring an immaterial object): давать
зарок, инструкцию, интервью, клятву, команду,
консультацию, обещание, объяснение, ответ,
приказ, присягу, разрешение, разъяснение,
распоряжение, рекомендацию, совет, согласие,
указание ‘give a vow, instruction, interview, oath,
command, promise, explanation, answer, order,
permission, elucidation, advice, consent, directions’
etc. Why?
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
17
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
As is known, no speech act is possible without the Speaker
(A1), Information Content (A2) and the Addressee (А3).
The semantic role of the Addressee eventually amounts
to the role of the Recipient: an Addressee is the recipient
of a communication. But the Recipient is the third actant
(А3) of the verb давать in the sense of physical
transmission, as in Он дал мне книгу ‘he gave me a
book’. Accordingly, the choice of давать for OPER1 of
speech acts is not accidental: the recipient of a physical
action transforms legitimately into an Addressee of an
information action when we move from the physical sense
of the verb давать to the lexical functional sense.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
18
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
OPER2 from action names like контроль ‘control’, that presuppose
the domination of the second participant of the situation (patient)
by the first one (Agent), is more often than note represented by
the verb подвергаться: подвергаться агрессии, аресту,
атаке, бойкоту, бомбардировке, влиянию, гонениям,
давлению, допросу, изгнанию, критике, мучениям, наказанию,
налету, обстрелу, оскорблению, осмеянию, остракизму,
побоям, порке, преследованиям, пытке, травле, цензуре,
штрафу. ‘be subject to aggression, arrest, attack, boycott,
shelling, persecution, pressure, interrogation, banishment,
criticism, torture, punishment, raid, insult, beating, whipping,
biting, censure, fine’. Why?
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
19
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
The verb подвергаться has a passive
meaning and presupposed a participant
of the situation who is affected by
another participant who has power or
authority.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
20
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
Accordingly, if you fix the arguments of an LF
(e.g. OPER1, and one of its expressions (e.g.
давать), than we can see that these
arguments are words of a sufficiently uniform
semantic class. This is accounted for by a
general law of semantic agreement, which
demands that the meanings of combining words
had a common component of meaning. Then if
we take a noun, it must semantically agree with
the expressions of all LFs possible for it.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
21
Lexical Functions: Correction of the
General Idea
In this way, the update theory of LFs acquires the
main property of any theory – the predicting
power. Knowing semantic classes and a
universal set of LFs, we can form correct
lexicographic expectations (in the form of
probabilistic forecasts) even about partially nonfree combinability of words. This upgrades the
work of a lexicographer to a new level – from
individual description of the material to a
systemic one.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
22
3. Theory of Valence: new
approaches
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
23
Theory of Valence: new approaches
Arguments (=actants) of predicates have two
important properties regarding the
correspondence between the syntactic and
semantic structure.
The first property concerns syntactic positions the
arguments occupy with respect to the predicate.
The second property is related to the
correspondence between their positions in the
syntactic and semantic structures.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
24
Theory of Valence: new approaches
In the prototypical case, arguments
are directly subordinated to their
predicates and occupy positions of
the subject and direct or indirect
object. Valence slots filled in this
way are called active.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
25
Theory of Valence: new approaches
In non-prototypical cases, arguments
can syntactically subordinate their
predicate (passive valence slots)
and even have no immediate
syntactic link with it (distant, or
discontinuous valence slots).
These types of valence slots are mostly
characteristic of adjectives, adverbs and
nouns.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
26
Theory of Valence: new approaches
A number of linguistic concepts are related,
directly or indirectly, to the notion of actant.
However, usually only prototypical – active –
valency instantiation is taken into account. If
one includes into consideration passive and
discontinuous valency slot filling, the area of
actant-related phenomena expands greatly.
Some of these phenomena will be discussed
below to show that the notions of diathesis and
conversion require broader generalization.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
27
Theory of Valence: new approaches
We will approach this subject from the
position of Moscow Semantic School
(MSS). It intersects, to a certain extent,
with the theory of Formal Semantics
(FS).
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
28
Theory of Valence: new approaches
The main similarity between MSS and FS
lies in the recognition of the fact that the
argument structure of the sentence plays
the role of the “semantic glue” which
combines the meanings of words
together.
FS took in this revolutionary idea in the
beginning of the 70s from R. Montague
(Partee 1966).
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
29
Theory of Valence: new approaches
Starting with the 8th issue of “Machine translation and
applied linguistics” (1964), which initiated the
Meaning – Text approach in the Soviet Union, and
subsequent publications on the Explanatory
Combinatorial Dictionary, it was explicitly claimed
that the semantic definition of many words contains
valence slots for the arguments. In the semantic
definition, these slots are represented by variables.
To construct the semantic structure of the sentence,
one has to identify the actants with the help of the
Government Pattern ( Subcategorization Frame)
and substitute them for the variables.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
30
Theory of Valence: new approaches
The differences between the MSS and FS approaches
consist, mostly, in the aim, object and tools of
semantic analysis.
For MSS, the meaning definition of each linguistic unit is
of primary importance and should be carried out in
maximum detail (Apresjan 1999).
This definition is formulated in a natural language: it may
be simplified and standardized, but must be sufficient
for capturing subtle semantic distinctions. Rules of
meaning amalgamation are devised to closely interact
with semantic definition of words.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
31
Theory of Valence: new approaches
FS does not make it its aim to semantically define all
meaningful units of language. This task is relegated
to the lexicon, while FS is more interested in the
mechanisms of meaning amalgamation than in the
meanings as such.
For meaning representation, it uses a logical
metalanguage which is less suitable for describing
the spectrum of linguistically relevant meanings.
On the other hand, this metalanguage is much more
convenient for describing logical properties of
natural languages than the semantic language of
MSS.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
32
Theory of Valence: new approaches
However, one cannot describe the way
lexical meanings are put together without
disposing of the detailed semantic
definition of each word.
We proceed from the assumption that if
word A semantically affects word B then
B should contain a meaning component
for A to act upon.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
33
Theory of Valence: new approaches
To give one example, the Longman
Dictionary of Contemporary English
defines accent as ‘the way someone
pronounces the words of a language,
showing which country or which part of a
country they come from’.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
34
Theory of Valence: new approaches
So, southern accent is interpreted as the way somebody
pronounces the words of a language, showing that the
speaker is from the South.
However, this definition does not explain the
combinability of this word with intensifiers: strong
<heavy, pronounced, slight> accent. It does not
contain any quantifiable component that is affected by
these adjectives. What do these adjectives intensify?
When we say that somebody speaks English with a
heavy <slight> Essex accent we mean that his
pronunciation of English words (a) is typical for people
from Essex and (b) is very <slightly> different from the
standard.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
35
Theory of Valence: new approaches
This is a good reason for revising the definition of
accent and including the component ‘different’ in
this definition:
X has a A accent (in B) = ‘the way X pronounces
the words of language B is different from the
way speakers of B usually pronounce them and
typical for speakers of language, group or
locality A’.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
36
Theory of Valence: new approaches
For MSS, the starting point is the semantic
analysis of the situation denoted by the given
word. Analytical semantic definition of this word
is
constructed
according
to
certain
requirements. In this respect, all types of words
–
verbs,
nouns,
adjectives,
adverbs,
prepositions, etc. – are on equal footing and
obey the same principles of description.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
37
Theory of Valence: new approaches
For a word to have a certain valence it is necessary, though
insufficient, that a situation denoted by this word should
contain a corresponding participant in the intuitively
obvious way.
From this point of view, not nearly all generalized quantifiers
are eligible for having a valence filled by a verbal phrase.
Noun phrases twenty students and many of the students
may both form a sentence when combined with a oneplace verb phrase (e.g. were late for the exam) and
therefore are generalized quantifiers. However, only in
the second case (many of) are we prepared to postulate
a semantic valence filled by a verbal phrase.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
38
Theory of Valence: new approaches
Let us assume that we have a good dictionary which
contains definitions of all meaningful linguistic units. What
else should we know in order to combine the meanings of
these units so that to obtain the semantic structure of the
sentence?
The main mechanism of meaning amalgamation is
instantiation of valence slots. A set of valence slots of a
word is determined by its semantic definition. An
obligatory participant of the situation denoted by the word
opens a valence slot if this participant is expressed
together with this word in a regular way (Mel’čuk
2004a,b).
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
39
Theory of Valence: new approaches
It is often believed that valences are primarily
needed for the description of government
properties of words. It is this task that
motivates the creation of numerous valence
dictionaries. We put a different emphasis:
valences are mainly needed for uniting
meanings of words to form the semantic
structure of the sentence.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
40
Theory of Valence: new approaches
Valence slot filling can be considered as
semantic glue which connects meanings of
words. We assume that if there is a
syntagmatic semantic link between two words,
then in most cases one of them fills a valence
slot of the other, or, more precisely, the
meaning of one of these words contains a
predicate whose argument makes part of the
meaning of the second one, as we saw in the
accent example.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
41
Theory of Valence: new approaches
There are three types of valence slots: active, passive, and
discontinuous ones (Boguslavsky 2003).
 An active valency slot of predicate L is filled with
sentence elements which are syntactically subordinated
to L.
 A passive valency slot is filled with elements that
syntactically subordinate L.
 The elements that fill a discontinous valence slot do not
have any direct syntactic link with L.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
42
Theory of Valence: new approaches
Active valency slots are well fit for solving the problem of slot
filling. First of all, this fact manifests itself in that each
valence slot has its own set of surface realizations. If a word
has several valency slots, their means of realization, as a
rule, clearly contrast. Different semantic actants are marked
by different means – cases, prepositions, conjunctions.
However, this is not an absolute rule. Sometimes, different
valency slots of the same predicate can be filled in the same
way. The best known example are the genitive subjects and
objects of nouns: amor patris, invitation of the president. Cf.
also prepositionless first and second complements of the
type Give Mary a book; Answer the question vs. answer
nothing.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
43
Theory of Valence: new approaches
A rarer example is provided by Russian
words достаточно ‘sufficient’ and
необходимо ‘necessary’ that can fill both
valence slots by means of the same
conjunction чтобы ‘in order to’.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
44
Theory of Valence: new approaches
A rarer example is provided by Russian
words достаточно ‘sufficient’ and
необходимо ‘necessary’ that can fill both
valence slots by means of the same
conjunction чтобы ‘in order to’.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
45
Theory of Valence: new approaches
(2a) Чтобы Q, достаточно, чтобы P ‘for Q it is
sufficient if P’
(2b) Чтобы всё взлетело на воздух,
достаточно, чтобы кто-нибудь поднес
спичку (lit. ‘that everything blows up sufficient
that anyone strikes a match’)
‘it is sufficient to strike a match and everything will
blow up’
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
46
Theory of Valence: new approaches
In this case, though, the identity of the conjunction is made
up for with the word order distinction:
(2c) * Чтобы кто-нибудь поднёс спичку, достаточно,
чтобы всё взлетело на воздух
lit. ‘that anyone strikes a match sufficient that everything
blows up’
Curiously enough, in case of достаточно (but not
необходимо ‘necessary’) valencе slot P can be filled with
the coordinating conjunction – a phenomenon known in
English, too: cf. the translation of example (2b):
(2d) Достаточно, чтобы кто-нибудь поднес спичку, и
все взлетит на воздух ‘it is sufficient to strike a match
and everything will blow up’
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
47
Theory of Valence: new approaches
For each class of predicates there exists a prototypical
syntactic position of their actants and a number of nonprototypical positions. The prototypical position is the one
occupied by the actant of a monovalent predicate. If a
verb has only one valence slot, an actant that fills it will
most probably be a subject (John sleeps). For nouns, the
prototypical position is that of a genitive complement (as
in начало концерта ‘the beginning of the concert’).
For predicates with passive valence slots, the prototypical
position of the actant is that of the subordinating word: a
noun, in case of adjectives (interesting book), and a verb,
in case of adverbs (run fast).
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
48
Theory of Valence: new approaches
If a predicate has more than one valency slot,
other actants occupy other, less prototypical
positions. Which are they?
Leaving aside directly subordinated actants
accounted for by the government pattern, there
are three positions which a non-first actant may
occupy: that of a subordinating verb, a
dependent of the subordinating verb, and a
dependent of the subordinating noun.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
49
Theory of Valence: new approaches
Subordinating Verb
An important class of words which have a valency slot filled
by a subordinating verb are quantifiers (all, every, each,
some, many of, most, majority, minority, etc.). These
words have at least two valence slots. One of them is filled
by a noun phrase directly connected to the quantifier, and
the other by a subordinating verbal phrase. For example,
the words most and majority denote a certain part of a
whole R that consists of elements having property P and is
larger than the part of R that does not share this property.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
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Theory of Valence: new approaches
Subordinating Verb
(4) Most people [R] <the majority of the people [R]> haven’t
taken [P] any steps to prepare for a natural disaster.
This sentence means that the group of people who haven’t
taken any steps to prepare for natural disasters is larger
that the group of people who have. Those who doubt that
most has valency P may note that the phrase most people
(as opposed to phrases like five people) does not mean
anything unless a property is specified which is shared by
all members of this group (one cannot imagine a film or
novel entitled most people).
Munich, June 24, 2008
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Theory of Valence: new approaches
Dependent of the Subordinating Verb
This type of valence slot is typical of adverbials. For example, by
habit has two valence slots inherited from the underlying
predicate ‘habit’: X – “the person who has a habit” and P –
“what X does by habit”. Valence P is filled by a subordinating
verb, and X by its subject. Therefore, if we introduce this
adverbial in sentences which denote the same situation but
use verbs with different subjects, synonymy disappears. In
(5a) it is John who has a habit, and in (5b) it is Mary:
(5a) By habit, John [X] borrowed [P] some money from Mary.
(5b) By habit, Mary [X] lent [P] John some money.
Munich, June 24, 2008
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Theory of Valence: new approaches
Dependent of the Subordinating Noun
The possessive adjective my in (6) is syntactically linked to the
noun, but semantically is an actant of favorite: X’s favorite Y
is the Y which X likes more than other Y-s:
(6) my [X] favorite color [Y].
Although filling this valence with a possessive adjective or a
noun in the possessive case (John’s favorite color) is more
frequent, it can also be filled by a prepositional phrase:
(7) a favorite spot [Y] for picnickers [X]
Munich, June 24, 2008
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Theory of Valence: new approaches
Different Actants – One Syntactic Position,
One Actant – Different Positions
Now we have prepared everything to show
that one syntactic position can correspond
to more than one valence of the word and
one valence can correspond to multiple
syntactic positions.
Munich, June 24, 2008
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54
Theory of Valence: new approaches
Majority / Minority: Active and Passive Filling of the Same
Valence
One of the valences of majority denotes a whole R of which a part
is extracted, and another valence corresponds to property P,
which distinguishes the extracted part from the rest of R.
Prototypically, R is expressed by an of-phrase, and P – by the
subordinating verb. Cf. (9a) where the whole class of the
opponents of war is divided into two parts by the property of
voting against the prime-minister.
(9a) A majority of the opponents of war [R] is voting [P] against the
prime-minister.
Munich, June 24, 2008
MTT: recent developments
55
Theory of Valence: new approaches
Majority / Minority: Active and Passive Filling of the Same Valence
In (9b) the interpretation of the of-phrase is totally different. The
opponents of war do not form a set a larger part of which has a certain
property (voting against the prime-minister), as it is in (9a).
Here, being a war opponent is itself a property that divides the society
into a larger and a smaller part. That is, the of-phrase fills valence slot
P. The same is true for the interpretation of minority of supporters.
(9b) The war in Chechnya is splitting the society into the majority of its
opponents [P] and the minority of supporters [P]
Example (10) demonstrates another case of filling valency slot P of
majority/minority by a subordinated phrase. Here, P is filled by a
modifying adjective.
(10) The rural minority <majority> of the population is not happy with the
new law.
Munich, June 24, 2008
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56
Theory of Valence: new approaches
Строгий ‘strict’: Prototypical and Non-prototypical Filling of
the Same Valency
In Russian, there is a class of adjectives which have a valence slot
for a beneficiary: строгий ‘strict’, благожелательный
‘benevolent’, снисходительный ‘indulgent’, добрый ‘kind’ etc.
(11) Ивановы очень строги к своим детям ‘the Ivanovs are
strict with their children’
When this slot is not filled, the sentence bears no information as to
who the beneficiary is:
(12a) Иванов очень строг ‘Ivanov is very strict’.
(12b) строгая дама ‘a strict lady’
These phrases should be understood in the universal sense: the
strictness applies to everybody.
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Theory of Valence: new approaches
Строгий ‘strict’: Prototypical and Non-prototypical Filling of
the Same Valency
However, in the context of relational nouns, which denote a person
who is in a certain relationship to other people, the
interpretation of this valency slot changes:
(13a) строгая мама ‘a strict mother’
(13b) любящие ученики ‘affectionate pupils’
(13с) требовательный начальник ‘an exacting boss’
The beneficiary of adjectives is determined quite definitely: it is a
person (or persons) with whom a person denoted by the
modified noun is in the corresponding relation. A strict mother is
strict with her children, affectionate pupils love their teacher, an
exacting boss demands something from his subordinates.
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Theory of Valence: new approaches
Here we are dealing with a curious type of the
syntax-semantics correspondence.
In Syntactic Structure, the beneficiary valence
slot of the adjective is not filled, just as the
valence slot of the noun. However, in SemS
these slots are not empty but co-indexed, i.e.
filled by the same variable:
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Theory of Valence: new approaches
who?
MOTHER
STRICT
with whom?
whose?
X
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X
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Theory of Valence: new approaches
These examples show that a valency slot of
some adjectives can be realized in more than
one way: prototypically, by a subordinate
prepositional phrase, as in (11), and nonprototypically – by a variable, co-indexed with
a variable corresponding to a valence slot of
its other SemA, as in (13a-c).
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3. Microsyntax: in Pursue of
the Integrated Description of
Language
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Microsyntax
We will deal here with a special type of Russian sentences
with embedded (semi-)phraseological expressions like
Он занимается чёрт знает чем ‘He does the Devil
knows what’. It is very difficult to build adequate syntactic
representations for such sentences. An unexpected
solution is proposed for this problem, admitting that
sentences of this type have two syntactic starts. Apart
from this, such constructions have other interesting
syntactic and semantic features.
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Microsyntax
(1) Он занимается чёрт знает чем ‘He
does the Devil knows what’
(2) Мне было – так лестно / Лезть за
тобою – Бог / Знает куда!  ‘I felt so
flattered to climb after you God knows
where’ (Marina Tsvetayeva)
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Microsyntax
It is extremely difficult to build adequate
surface syntactic representations for
such sentences. Namely, it is unclear
what the syntactic role of the verb знает
‘knows’ in (1) and (2) can be.
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Microsyntax
It cannot be the topmost head of the
surface syntactic tree as in
(1) Чёрт знает, чем он занимается ‘The
devil knows what he does’
where знает is the top of the tree
(1) is neither syntactically nor
semantically equivalent to (1)
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Microsyntax
There is no reasonable syntactic governor
for знает in (1) and (2).
If we subordinate it to the main verb of the
sentence we shall face the problem of
what the syntactic relation between the
verbs is. This problem has no plausible
answer.
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Microsyntax
 We
might view the syntactic governor of
знает in the pronouns куда or где’.
Phraseological expressions like чёрт
знает may be suspected of having
transformed into merged lexical units
equivalent to indefinite particles like
–нибудь or –либо.
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Microsyntax
Such a solution does not hold, since the
embedded constructions of this type are
not confined to phraseological
expressions cited and may include rather
free clauses formed with different verbs.
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Microsyntax
Когда я был подростком, сильное
впечатление на меня произвела
вычитанная не помню уже в какой
книге история панамской авантюры.
‘When I was a youth I was deeply impressed
by the story of the Panama adventure that
I read in I don’t remember which book’
(Novoye Vremya)
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Microsyntax
"Вдогонку" мне в "Вестнике ЛГУ" была напечатана
статья И. Лапицкого, в которой я обвинялся во
всех смертных грехах: я и монархист, и эсер, и
троцкист, и еще не упомню кто.
‘Following this, Leningrad University Bulletin published a
paper of I. Lapitsky, where I was accused of all mortal
sins: I am a monarchist, a socialist-revolutionary, a
Trotskyist and I can’t remember who else’ (Dmitry
Likhachev)
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Microsyntax
В Америке, не припомню в каком городе, два
торговца зашли в трактир и сели обедать.
‘In America, I can’t remember in which town, two
salesmen came into a restaurant and sat down
to dinner (Sodeistvie Newspaper, 1868)
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Microsyntax
Even the second parts of these constructions are
not necessarily interrogative pronominal words.
They may be represented by conjunction или
‘or’ or the particle ли ‘whether’
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Microsyntax
Его судят за преступление, которое
он неизвестно совершил или нет
lit. ‘He is being tried for a crime which it is
not clear if he committed or not’
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Microsyntax
Кроме того, есть еще такие сдерживающие
факторы, как наличие Северной Кореи с
непонятно имеющимся ли у нее ядерным
оружием
‘Besides, there are such deterrent factors as the
presence of North Korea with nuclear weapons
that it might or might not have’ lit. ‘… the
presence of North Korea with it-is-unclearwhether-available-to-it nuclear weapons’ (an
analytical review on the Polit.Ru website).
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Microsyntax
Whilst there is no evident syntactic
governor for the second verbs of the
sentences considered, the pronominal
words have as many as two plausible
candidates for governor.
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Microsyntax
(1) Он занимается чёрт знает
чем
‘He does the Devil knows what’
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Microsyntax
Оn the one hand, one may suggest that
чем instantiates the 1st completive
valence of заниматься, being the only
word of sentence (1) that stands in the
instrumental case – exactly the one that
is required by заниматься.
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Microsyntax
On the other hand, the same pronominal
word may be viewed as instantiating the
1st completive valency of the verb знать,
the way it does in isolated (elliptic)
sentences like Я знаю чем ‘I know what’.
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Microsyntax
So, the syntactic structure of (1) has two
oddities at a time: one word in need of a
governor (знает) has no good candidate
while another word (чем) has two.
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Microsyntax
The duality of syntactic dominance for чем in
(1) is far from trivial and requires further
reasoning. In simple single-clause sentences
pronominal words like чем cannot depend on
verbs that, unlike знать, do not take
propositional complements:
*Я занимаюсь чем ‘I do what’
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Microsyntax
Such pronouns may either form a special
question like Чем вы занимаетесь? ‘What do
you do?’ – in which case the pronoun is
interrogative too – or a highly colloquial general
question like Вы занимаетесь↑ чем? ‘Do you
do anything?’ where чем in an indefinite
pronoun and really means ‘anything’
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Microsyntax
Assuming that (1) is not a single-clause
sentence, we define what clauses it may
consist of. The most natural assumption
is that (1) consists of two clauses, one
constituted by verb занимается and the
other constituted by verb знает.
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Microsyntax
Where are the boundaries of the two
clauses? The left-hand boundaries of
both clauses are evident: for the first
clause it is the beginning of the whole
sentence and for the second clause it is
the word чёрт which is the subject of
the verb знает.
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Microsyntax
Hypothesis: the right-hand boundaries of
both clauses are the same and coincide
with the end of the sentence, so that the
pronominal word чем belongs to both
clauses.
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Microsyntax
(1) Он занимается чёрт знает чем
‘He does the Devil knows what’
(3) Я знаю, чем он занимается ‘I know
what he does’
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Microsyntax
The lack of such subordination
distinguishes the second clause of (1)
from the subordinate clause of (3). The
head of the second clause of (1) remains
without a governor at all. This is the most
crucial characteristic of this type of
sentences.
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Microsyntax
Sentences (3) and (1) are unfolding differently:
(3) is smoothly produced by the speaker,
(1) has a sort of leap amidst generation: before
the first clause is finished, the second clause
starts to evolve, and, after some time, the two
proceed together until the end of the whole
sentence.
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Microsyntax
The second clause in (1) behaves like a
tributary to a river, which contributes to its
course.
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Microsyntax
Evolution of sentence (1) resembles the
correlation between the main and the
parenthetical clauses if the latter is
situated in the middle of the sentence,
as in
В этот момент какой-то молодой
человек (это и был Иван) поднялся
с места: ‘At this moment a young man
(this was Ivan) rose from his place’
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Microsyntax
The drastic difference between this
sentence and (1) is that parenthetical
clauses are finished sooner than the
main clauses while in (1) the “tributary”
clause ends together with the first clause.
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Microsyntax
If this stand is taken, we will have to
admit that sentences of this type
have two syntactic starts.
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Microsyntax
They violate the fundamental requirement
of the surface syntactic component of the
Meaning  Text theory that the syntactic
structure of any sentence should be a
tree.
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Microsyntax
One more syntactic particularity is that
expressions like чёрт знает что may
include a personal pronoun whose syntactic
status is unclear
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Microsyntax
Ему давно уже пора дом покупать,
снимает чёрт его знает что!
lit. ‘It’s high time he buys a house, he
rents the Devil knows him what’
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Microsyntax
Деньги уходят чёрт их знает куда
lit. ‘Money goes the devil knows it where’
(Vladimir Lenin, in a letter to his mother,
1895).
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Microsyntax
The constructions discussed are
subject to rather tight lexical
restrictions.
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Microsyntax
Within the phraseological subset, the constructions are
formed with the verbs знать and, occasionally,
ведать ‘know’, almost always in the present tense,
whose subjects can be either
1) nouns чёрт, дьявол ‘devil’, леший ‘wood goblin’, бес
and бис ‘demon’, шут ‘jester’ and пёс ‘dog’ (the last
two are probably euphemisms for чёрт), practically
always in the singular.
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Microsyntax
2) derogatory nouns like фиг or хрен that are in fact
euphemisms for an obscene word, as in В стране
скоро фиг знает что начнется ‘Soon, goodness
knows what will start in this country’, or this obscene
word itself
3) nouns Бог ‘God’, Господь ‘Lord’, Аллах ‘Allah’,
Всевышний ‘Almighty’, as in Mне не нравится, что
на юбилей города приглашают Бог знает кого ‘I
don't like it that they invite God knows whom to attend
the city anniversary’.
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Microsyntax
Первая корректура ушла из
издательства Будда знает сколько
времени назад
lit. ‘The first proof-sheet left the publisher
Buddha knows how long ago’ (from a
posting about the publication of a
manuscript on East Asia).
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Microsyntax
The semantics of the Чёрт знает что
type of construction is very interesting and
deserves special attention and careful
study.
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Microsyntax
The meanings of collocations that represent the
construction are remarkably close to each
other. All of them have a strong evaluative
component that expresses the speaker’s
negative attitude toward the participant or
circumstance of the situation conveyed by the
collocations.
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Microsyntax
There is a noticeable difference of meaning between the variety of
collocations based on бог and the remaining collocations.
In the former, the speaker’s negative attitude becomes milder and is
substituted by regret and, possibly, compassion. To my mind, the
speaker’s negative attitude belongs to the assertive part of the
meaning rather than the presupposition. In particular, this may
account for the ungrammaticality of sentences like *Он предал
чёрт знает кого ‘He betrayed the devil knows whom’: in all
probability, the semantics of the verb предать  ‘be disloyal to’
requires that its object deserve loyalty and the collocation чёрт
знает кто introduces an unknown and/or bad person who does
not deserve loyalty.
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Microsyntax
The construction considered here has clear
negative polarity. Almost all of its lexical
realizations have an overt or incorporated
negation – but even the variants without the
negation (чёрт знает что, бог знает куда
etc.) introduce unknown entities.
He went God knows where really means the
same as Nobody knows where.
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Microsyntax
3. At least some of the collocations that represent the
construction lack compositionality. An example is the
expression containing сколько ‘how much’: sentences
like
Он получил чёрт знает сколько денег
‘He got the devil knows how much money’
refer to situations that involve an indefinitely large
amount of money but never to situations that involve
an indefinitely small amount of money.
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Microsyntax
The constructions considered here are unique and have no
close cognates in the language.
In particular, the constructions like Иди куда хочешь <куда
тебе угодно> ‘Go wherever you please’, Oн танцует с
кем попало ‘He would dance with the first person he
comes across’, Ребенок ест что ни попадя ‘The child
eats whatever comes to hand’ that share with our
constructions the presence of interrogative pronouns
and the meaning of indefiniteness are nonetheless
drastically different from them.
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Microsyntax
Most importantly, they do not
have an additional syntactic
start.
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Partee B.H. The Development of Formal Semantics in Linguistic Theory. Sh. Lapin (ed.) The Handbook of
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Meaning – Text Theory. Языки славянской культуры. Москва, (2005).
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