Figurative and non-figurative motion in the expression of result in English

LCO 2015 coverBlog post written by Francisco Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez and Alba Luzondo Oyón based on and article in the journal Language and Cognition 

There is a variety of ways in which English can express resulting events. Some take the form of non-figurative changes of state, as in Cold temperatures froze the river solid, which is an example of the intransitive resultative constructions. Others, like the intransitive motion syntactic frame (e.g. The horse jumped over the fence) and the caused-motion configuration (e.g. Tom kicked the ball into the net) depict literal changes of location. Interestingly enough, many outcome events require a figurative interpretation. Some cases in point are the following: changes of state expressed in terms of figurative motion (e.g. Miners drank themselves into oblivion); self-instigated change of location figuratively expressed as the result of caused motion (e.g. They laughed me out of the studio); self-instigated changes of location re-construed as externally caused events (e.g. Sheena walked me to the library), etc. In the context of this varied array of realizations codifying change, this paper provides readers with a qualitative cognitive-constructionist approach of the role played by motion in the conceptualization of result in English.

To this end, our analysis discusses three related aspects of the motional component of result events. First, it explores the nature of some of the constructions exemplified above. These are labeled Adjectival Phrase (AP) resultatives (e.g. The joggers ran their Nikes threadbare) and Prepositional Phrase (PP) resultatives (e.g. Steven worked himself to exhaustion), both of which express changes of state. The crucial feature setting apart these two types of resultative constructions is that only the latter builds on the high-level metaphor CHANGES OF STATE ARE CHANGES OF LOCATION. For example, in Steven worked himself to exhaustion, the change of state (i.e. become exhausted) is understood in terms of the destination of metaphorical motion. But, what lies behind the choice of one structure over the other? What are the differences between pairs employing an AP and those adding motion to the state of affairs, as in He hammered the metal flat/He hammered hot iron into knives? These are some of the questions that this paper explores. A second important aspect that we address is the relation between the prototypical AP resultative (e.g. He hammered the metal flat) and the literal caused-motion construction (e.g. Pat threw the book off the table). The connection between these two constructions has been the object of some debate. Thus, given the relevance of this issue in the context of a paper which revolves around the connection between motion and result, an entire section is devoted to revisiting the hypothesis that AP resultatives are a metaphorical extension of caused-motion configurations. This claim is based on the idea that the resultative element in AP resultatives codes a metaphorical type of goal (i.e. metaphorical change of location) by virtue of the ubiquitous metaphor CHANGES OF STATE ARE CHANGES OF LOCATION.

Third, because our study is additionally concerned with specifying the underlying mechanisms that motivate lexical-constructional integration in expressions involving change with some kind of motion ingredient, the remainder of our paper examines the role of high-level metaphors and metonymies such as AN ACTIVITY IS AN EFFECTUAL ACTION and A CAUSED EVENT FOR AN ACTIVITY, which, like CHANGES OF STATE ARE CHANGES OF LOCATION, are vital licensing cognitive mechanisms in the conceptualization of result events.

Read the full article ‘Figurative and non-figurative motion in the expression of result in English’ here.




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