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ERIC Number: ED548810
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 169
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2677-6465-2
Transitive and Intransitive Constructions in Japanese and English: A Psycholinguistic Study
Luk, Zoe Pei-sui
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh
Transitivity has been extensively researched from a semantic point of view (e.g., Hopper & Thompson, 1980). Although little has been said about a prototypical intransitive construction, it has been suggested that verbs that denote actions with an agent and a patient/theme cannot be intransitive (e.g., Guerssel, 1985). However, it has been observed that some languages, including Japanese, have intransitive verbs for actions that clearly involve an animate agent and a patient/theme, such as "arresting" (e.g., Pardeshi, 2008). This dissertation thus attempts to understand how causality is differentially interpreted from transitive and intransitive constructions, including non-prototypical intransitive verbs, by rating and priming experiments conducted in both English and Japanese. In Experiment 1, participants (native English and Japanese speakers, 20 each) were asked to read sentence pairs with transitive and intransitive verbs in their native language and rate how likely they thought it was that the animate entity mentioned in the sentence pair was responsible for the event. The results show that in Japanese, the sentences with agent-implying intransitive verbs were rated closer to those with transitive verbs and significantly higher than non-agent-implying intransitive verbs. In Experiment 2, participants (42 native English speakers and 46 native Japanese speakers) read the equivalent sentence pairs and answered a question that asked whether the instrument mentioned in the sentences could cause the event to happen. It was hypothesized that participants would respond faster to the transitive sentence than the intransitive sentences, because it was assumed that the transitive sentences would lead the participants to evoke an agent and thus an instrument whereas the intransitive sentences would not. The results, however, were not consistent with the hypotheses in that the agent-implying verb pairs (both transitive and intransitive) were responded to significantly slower than the non-agent-implying verb pairs. The results are explained through (1) the preference to focus on sub-event (change of state) rather than the super-event (causation) in Japanese, and (2) the telicity and punctuality of the agent-implying verbs. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A