Spatial events in Dutch and English A corpus study on the description of motion and location events in novels

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The aim of this thesis was to give insight in the influence of the syntactic and lexical differences of the closely related Germanic languages Dutch and English in the description of spatial events. Several studies were done earlier in the area of motion events, location events and fictive motion events, but never with a large corpus as this and with two languages that fall into the same category of Talmy’s (2000) typology of spatial events, both being satellite-framed languages. A large corpus study on Dutch and English novels and their translations was conducted to answer five subquestions. First, the expression of Manner in motion events in the two languages was examined. English used a higher amount of Manner verb types than Dutch, which according to Berman and Slobin (1994) would lead to a higher amount of Manner expression, but no significant difference between the two languages was found. Second, the expression of Manner in fictive motion events was investigated. They turned out to behave the same as motion events and, with the exclusion of one outlier, no difference in Manner expression between the two languages was found here either. Third, the way of expressing Path in motion events was studied for English and Dutch. English turned out to use twice as much Path verb types, and also expressed Path more often in the verb than Dutch, although both satellite-framed languages still preferred to express Path in the satellite. Fourth, the expression of Manner in location events was investigated, based on Lemmens’ (2005) consideration of posture verbs as ‘manner-of-location’ verbs. As expected, Dutch expressed Manner more often in location events than English by the use of posture verbs, while English prefers to use neutral or other verbs to describe location events. Fifth and finally, animacy turned out to differentiate the description of location events in English and Dutch. The difference between Dutch and English of Manner description in location events was larger when the events contained inanimate Figures than when they contained animate Figures. Altogether, it turned out that even within these closely related languages, differences appear in the description of spatial events. Languages cannot easily be placed on a ‘manner-of-salience’ scale, as Slobin (2004) proposed, but several factors, like type of event, number of Path verb types, and animacy, turned out to influence the expression of Manner in spatial events.
Faculteit der Letteren