Natalia Levshina (MPI for Psycholinguistics)
Parallel corpora and big questions in linguistics
Parallel corpora are indispensable in contrastive linguistics and translation studies. In my talk, I will discuss the contribution of parallel corpus research to answering big linguistic questions about universal functional biases of communication, mechanisms of grammaticalization and cultural variation. I will also show how parallel corpora can help us to create semantic maps – a popular tool for typological research. These ideas will be illustrated by the following case studies:
A quantitative investigation of causative constructions in a sample of typologically diverse languages, where I show that multivariate variation does not support the iconicity-only account of causatives, but gives evidence in favour of an efficiency-based explanation (cf. Haiman 1983; Haspelmath 2008).
Patterns in grammaticalization of causative and permissive auxiliaries in Romance and Germanic. This case study demonstrates correspondences between three grammaticalization parameters: the frequencies of auxiliaries, syntactic integration with the effected predicate, and the degree of their semantic bleaching (cf. Soares da Silva 2012; Levshina 2015).
T/V-forms in European languages. Quantitative analyses show that the solidarity dimension is predominant in the use of the T/V forms, although the power dimension is still present (Brown & Gilman 1960; Levshina 2017).
Semantic maps of causation. This case study shows how parallel corpora can help us determine the nodes of semantic maps (Haspelmath 2003) in highly abstract and multidimensional conceptual domains, such as causation (e.g. Talmy 2000; Dixon 2000).
For all these case studies, I will use data from the ParTy corpus of film subtitles and multivariate statistical methods (random forests, Multidimensional Scaling, hierarchical cluster analysis) and graph-theoretical approaches to model cross-linguistic variation.
Brown, R., &Gilman, A. 1960. The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity. In: Sebeok, T. A. (ed.), Style in Language, 253-276. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Dixon, R. M. W. 2000. A typology of causatives: form, syntax and meaning. In: R. M. W. Dixon & A. Y. Aikhenvald (eds.), Changing valency: Case studies in transitivity, 30–83. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Haiman, J. 1983. Iconic and economic motivation. Language 59(4). 781–819.
Haspelmath, M. 2003. The geometry of grammatical meaning: Semantic maps and cross-linguistic comparison. In: M. Tomasello (ed.), The New Psychology of Language: Cognitive and Functional Approaches to Language Structure, Vol. 2, 211-242. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Haspelmath, M. 2008. Frequency v s. iconicity in explaining grammatical asymmetries. Cognitive Linguistics 19(1): 1–33.
Levshina, N. 2015. European analytic causatives as a comparative concept: Evidence from a parallel corpus of film subtitles. Folia Linguistica 49(2): 487-520.
Levshina, N. 2017. A multivariate study of T/V forms in European languages based on a parallel corpus of film subtitles. Research in Language 15(2): 153–172.
Soares da Silva, A. 2012. Stages of grammaticalization of causative verbs and constructions in Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian. Folia Linguistica 46(2). 513–552.
Talmy, L. 2000. Toward a Cognitive Semantics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
van der Auwera, J. 2013. Semantic maps, for synchronic and diachronic typology. In A. G. Ramat, C. Mauri, & P. Molinelli (eds.), Synchrony and Diachrony: A dynamic interface, 153–176. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.