THE FRAMING OF MOTION VERBS.

There’s an interesting post at Christopher Culver’s Linguistics Weblog about a typology developed by Leonard Talmy that opposes satellite-framed languages, in which “the direction of motion must be expressed by a particle or prefix and not the verb itself,” to verb-framed languages, in which “the direction of motion is encoded in the verb” and “manner of motion must be expressed by another component, i.e. an adverb or a gerundive.”

The difference between the two categories can be exemplified by an identical sentence in English and Spanish. English the bottle floated out has manner expressed through the verb root (float) and the direction expressed by an adverb (out). In Spanish, on the other hand, la botella salió flotando the bottle exit-3SG.PRET float-GERUND has the direction conflated into the verb root (salió) and manner must be expressed by the accompanying gerund (flotando).

As he says, “this kind of categorization of languages ought to be brought into everyday language teaching.”

Comments

  1. I studied with Talmy at SUNY Buffalo. He has a larger following outside the US, particularly Europe and Japan. I’d bet there’s a fair amount of Talmy in language teaching in those places.

  2. But is this a systematic distinction? In English I can say “the balloon sailed over the rooftops” or “the balloon went sailing over the rooftops.” So both options are available.
    And I hardly know a word of Spanish, but the post you link to translates ‘entrar’ as ‘go in’ and ‘salir’ as ‘go out.’ But I can equally well translate them as ‘enter’ and ‘leave,’ can I not, in which case the direction of motion is encoded in the English verb just as much as it is in the Spanish equivalent.
    I can see that there are two ways of doing things, but do languages in general really divide neatly into a preference for one or the other?

  3. Tom Recht says:

    The original Talmy article, albeit badly OCRed, is online here: http://dingo.sbs.arizona.edu/~hharley/courses/PDF/TalmyLexicalizationPatterns.pdf.
    Dan Slobin has done some interesting work on the differing habits of expression which arise from these lexical-semantic differences, showing for example that in Spanish novels manner of motion is rarely expressed but that English translators of these novels often add it in, so that e.g. Salió de la casa becomes He stomped/slunk/etc. out of the house. English tends to avoid pure motion verbs much more than Spanish does, understandably given that in English you can add on manner of motion ‘for free’, so to speak.

  4. It’s wider than just English and Spanish. The Germanic languages come with mostly manner-centric verbs as standard equipment, and the Romance languages with mostly direction-centric ones, and English can do both precisely because it has borrowed so many Romance verbs. It is very difficult to precisely render The boy ran down into the basement (i.e., from outside the house) into Spanish or French, because there is no verb for the motion of going inward and downward successively, so the less salient one gets left out.
    David L: Go is such a semantically bleached motion verb that went sailing is practically as manner-centric as sailed.

  5. In English you can say “the bottle exited floating” but it would be considered a stylistic mistake in most contexts.
    Interestingly German often uses participles to qualify the manner of motion with the word “kommen” – “die Katze kommt immer angerannt wenn ich rufe” (the cat always comes up [to me] when I call” or “der Vogel kam auf mich zugeflogen” (the bird flew right towards me), but it seems to me that you can’t do the same thing with “gehen” – people just tend to use the verb – “wegrennen” or “wegfliegen”. Any native speakers agree?

  6. “Go” is such a semantically bleached motion verb that “went sailing” is practically as manner-centric as “sailed”.
    But is there a way to draw a principled distinction between this case and Spanish “salió flotando”? Is “salir” so much less semantically bleached than “go” that the two constructions are qualitatively different in a meaningful way? (I don’t speak Spanish, so this is a genuine question.)
    (This isn’t to deny that the distinction exists and is useful, mind you — the concept of the “verb-framed language” fits very well with the way things are generally done in Japanese, the one language other than English I know really well.)

  7. dearieme says:

    “To exit” is an ugly use anyway.

  8. I noticed this characteristic a very long time ago, because coming up with ways of expressing those English prepositions (which are not really ‘prepositions’) in foreign languages is always a challenge, and you soon get to realise that there are certain ways of doing it. But I never thought in terms of a systematic distinction among languages.
    German always struck me as somehow clumsy because of expressions like Er kam ins Zimmer herein (correct me if I’ve got it wrong), where not only is there a preposition (in), there is also a separable verb that consists of a motion verb (kommen) and a particle indicating direction (herein). I have to remind myself that hereinkommen is equivalent to ‘enter’, so it basically means ‘enter into’. The trouble is, it’s not really the same as ‘enter into’, because hereinkommen is so transparently made up of two elements.

  9. marie-lucie says:

    the post you link to translates ‘entrar’ as ‘go in’ and ‘salir’ as ‘go out.’ But I can equally well translate them as ‘enter’ and ‘leave,’ can I not
    Go in and go out are possible translations of “entrar” and “salir”, but so are come in and come out, get in and get out, run in and run out, step in and step out, limp in and limp out, crawl in and crawl out, jump in and jump out and any number of other combinations as long as they include in and out, which are the operative words indicating the direction of motion. Depending on the context, “salir” could be “leave”, but not necessarily: whether you crawl out or jump out of bed in the morning and then come out of your bedroom into the kitchen before going out into the backyard, you are not “leaving”.
    As JC points out, this is a basic difference between the Romance and Germanic languages. The same things occur in French or Italian and German. German is even more precise in its indication of motion towards the speaker (or reference point) and away from the speaker. During the German occupation of France, French people quickly learned at least one German word, which sounded to them like “ra-ous” or even “ra-ouste”, obviously meaning “Sortez!” (‘Get out, all of you!’). German soldiers or police would knock on doors and shout this word, actually their Heraus! (her ‘towards speaker’, aus ‘out’ – stress is on aus). The full order would be Kommen Sie heraus!, but the combination of particles is enough to indicate the desired direction of motion, there is no need for an actual verb such as kommen ‘to come’, which would not really add to the meaning of the order.

  10. Interesting. I know this very distinction as “manner-path” v. “path-manner” languages (i.e. “The ball rolled down the slope” v. “The ball descended the slope rolling”). Easier to remember than satellite what not. Incidentally, the latter is a Romance borrowing into English (that, whilst grammatical, usually sounds very unnatural), the former is our native Germanic pattern.

  11. is this a systematic distinction?
    FWIW, I think I remember Robert D. van Valin Jr.’s An Introduction to Syntax describing the same distinction. I’m sorry I can’t provide details, but I’ll be returning to the book soon, and if memory does serve, I should be able to paste a passage and/or write a precis of the section on the putatively systematic distinction in the near future.
    As he says, “this kind of categorization of languages ought to be brought into everyday language teaching.”
    Fuck yes. English teachers, as well as teachers of any language, should know a little linguistics — ideally keeping up with the latest scholarship — so that they can teach facts (when not literature) instead of idiosyncratic peeves. I mean, really.

  12. @marie-lucie: thank you, that’s very helpful. I didn’t realize that ‘entrar’ and ‘salir’ were so capacious in their meaning.

  13. German is even more precise in its indication of motion towards the speaker (or reference point) and away from the speaker.
    It’s funny, skimming the intro to syntax book I mentioned earlier (to find more details on the distinction questioned by David L), I did come across a passage saying that German is a language with both prepositions and postpositions, unlike English whose only adpositions are prepositions.

  14. Notwithstanding notwithstanding.

  15. David L: But then again run is capacious in meaning too. Why, it means ‘enter by running’ and ‘exit by running’ and ‘ascend by running’ and ‘descend by running’ and ‘advance by running’ and ‘retreat by running and ….
    James: Wikipedia lists these English postpositions (traditionally called adverbs, but they definitely govern their objects in the usual adpositional way):
    ago as in “five years ago”
    apart as in “this apart”
    aside as in “such examples aside”
    away as in “five light years away”
    hence as in “five years hence”
    on as in “five years on”
    through as in “the whole night through”
    withal (archaic)

  16. Thanks John and Hat — John for the exceptions, Hat for the laugh.

  17. Bathrobe says:

    Fuck yes
    Well, I don’t totally agree. Of course it should be explicitly taught, since manipulating this kind of thing is essential in using a foreign language. When you learn Japanese, for instance, it’s useful to systematise students’ ability to use expressions like ‘run out of’ 走って出て行く hashitte dete iku ‘run go-out go’. The distinction between movement away from and movement towards (embodied in the verb 行く iku go) is also important. This is just as the same as learning all that stuff for German, or learning how to say 跑出去 pǎo-chū-qù in Chinese. (In Chinese, it’s also normal to teach students that verb + 下去 xià-qù indicates an action that continues on into the future. It’s all there in a good syllabus.) So I think a good teacher will teach those things in some form or another, and whoever failed to teach Chris Culver is culpable.
    But teaching it as a ‘linguistic category’ or a ‘systematic distinction’ (with attendant terminology ‘satellite framing’ vs ‘verb framing’) seems like going a bridge too far. It only adds to the burden of seemingly extraneous and meaningless stuff that makes language-learning such a chore for some people. In the past I’ve defended teaching the basic vocabulary of grammar or linguistics to students, so they know the difference between a noun and a verb. But ‘satellite framing’ doesn’t seem to me like the kind of terminology that needs to be taught.

  18. But teaching it as a ‘linguistic category’ or a ‘systematic distinction’ (with attendant terminology ‘satellite framing’ vs ‘verb framing’) seems like going a bridge too far.
    Well, sure. These aren’t university linguistics courses we’re talking about, and no teacher wants to be boring. But it couldn’t hurt for teachers to bone up on actual linguistics instead of prescriptivist usage guides, and for them then to figure out ways to pass along some of what they’ve learned — to give their students a sense of how language actually works, with words that won’t engender eyeball rolling and sighs.

  19. In other words, it seems like we agree.

  20. But teaching it as a ‘linguistic category’ or a ‘systematic distinction’ (with attendant terminology ‘satellite framing’ vs ‘verb framing’) seems like going a bridge too far. It only adds to the burden of seemingly extraneous and meaningless stuff that makes language-learning such a chore for some people.
    “Some” being the operative word. Others of us eat that stuff up and find it harder to learn languages without such categorization.

  21. Bathrobe says:

    Actually, I’m wondering about the usefulness of the classification. I think the net needs to be cast wider.
    For example, even though English is supposedly ‘satellite framing’, it still quite naturally uses expressions like ‘He came running out’, where the mode of action is encoded in a participle.

  22. I second Bathrobe in disliking the terminology and the dualism of the way this distinction is formulated. But I really, really like Talmy’s work, which I was first introduced to at an LSA Summer Institute in Honolulu in 1977 when I took an excellent course on lexical semantics from Charles Fillmore, who cited some of Talmy’s dissertation research on Atsugewi prefixes.
    Manner and path are better terms than verb and satellite. Linguists working on morphology-rich Austronesian languages in Taiwan have found complex verbs having manner prefixes and path roots, where it’s hard to determine which component is more salient.
    Manner also tends to precede path in the verb serializing languages I’m familiar with in PNG, where each verb is inflected for the same tense/mode even when if the subject switches, as in ‘I-wrote letter it-went it-reached my sister’. But there’s more to motion events than manner and path.
    In Numbami and other Austronesian serializing languages around the Huon Gulf of PNG, motion events can contain several different classes of verbal prototypes: MOVE (manner of movement: walk, fly), AIM (trajectory: climb, descend, enter, exit), GO (deictic direction: come to me, go toward you, go elsewhere), and REACH (with goal of motion or dative object).

  23. James: Wikipedia lists these English postpositions (traditionally called adverbs, but they definitely govern their objects in the usual adpositional way):
    ago as in “five years ago”
    apart as in “this apart”
    aside as in “such examples aside”
    away as in “five light years away”
    hence as in “five years hence”
    on as in “five years on”
    through as in “the whole night through”
    withal (archaic)

    John, when you wrote that, I thoughtlessly thanked you for the list of “exceptions,” but now that I’m thinking, I realize that these are closed class lexemes we’re talking about — they can’t be borrowed from another language, there are only so many of them — so that list is too long for all the words on it to be called exceptions. Yet here’s the paragraph I read, from a 2001 textbook:

    Prepositions are adpositions that occur before their object, while postpositions occur after their object. English and Spanish have only prepositions, e.g. English in, on, under, to, Spanish en, a, con, whereas Japanese and Korean have only postpositions. German has both: in dem Haus `in the house’ (preposition in) versus dem Haus gegenuber `over across from the house’ (postposition gegentiber).
    Robert D. van Valin Jr. An Introduction to Syntax (p. 7). Kindle Edition.

    I’m scratching my head. Maybe it’s not a good book.

  24. German has mostly prepositions and a few postpositions, and so does English. But prepositions are not a closed class: see this article by Muriel Norde:

    It is generally acknowledged that prepositions do not form a closed class (cf. Sjöström 1985, König & Kortmann 1991 and references there, Lindqvist 1994 and references there), since new members arise with great frequency. Particularly productive patterns are phrasal adpositions, such as alongside, throughout, on top of, according to, and participial adpositions such as concerning and considering. The formation of new prepositions is a type of grammaticalization: the process whereby lexical items such as nouns, verbs or adjectives lose in semantic complexity and syntactic freedom, sometimes accompanied by phonetic reduction (see e.g. Hopper & Traugott 2003).

    So while it is not usual to consciously invent a new proposition, as happens all the time for nouns, adjectives, and verbs, they do regularly get added to languages in a way that just does not happen with truly closed classes like pronouns (in most languages), auxiliary verbs, conjunctions, determiners, and simple numbers.

  25. marie-lucie says:

    Another verb with out (copied from a facebook entry):
    I coughed [my husband] out of bed at 6 in the morning … (= I was coughing so much that my husband woke up and got up).
    Preposition creation:
    One that I have noticed is “absent”, now used to mean ‘if there is no …, or simply ‘without …'”, as in Absent a material proof, ….

  26. disliking the terminology and the dualism of the way this distinction is formulated
    Thanks for picking up on what I was trying to say and putting it so succinctly!

  27. And it was Phil who first mentioned the “manner-path” v. “path-manner” classification, which I somehow missed.

  28. Jesus, I’m not sure if this book is worth reading if I have to double-check every paragraph with the LH cognoscenti. I mean, is a decade really long enough for it to be this antiquated regarding categorical details? Twice I’ve pasted passages; twice they’ve been challenged — if not straight up shot down — by people whose judgment and knowledge I’ve come to trust and admire.

    There is an important opposition that divides lexical categories into two general classes, based on whether the membership of the class can readily be increased or not. Languages can usually increase their stock of nouns, for example, by borrowing nouns from other languages or creating new ones through compounding (e.g. black + board yields blackboard) or other morphological means (e.g. rapid + -lv = rapidly), but they do not normally create or borrow new adpositions, conjunctions or determiners. Lexical categories such as noun and verb whose membership can be enlarged are termed open class categories, whereas categories such as adposition, determiner or conjunction, which have small, fixed membership, are called closed class categories.
    Robert D. van Valin Jr. An Introduction to Syntax (p. 8). Kindle Edition.

    Thanks for taking the time, John.

  29. Maybe when Valin Jr. gets into more detail he’ll explain that adpositions are less closed than determiners and conjunctions, that scholars have called into question the idea that adpositions are a closed class, and that he only said that they were earlier because he was simplifying to explain the concept of open and closed classes. Still, that wouldn’t be the best way to write it — he could easily have included a proviso — and overall I’m disappointed. You hear that, John? You’ve disappointed me, on the day of my daughter’s wedding no less…

  30. Bill Walderman says:

    @ Marie-Lucie: The use of “absent” you mentioned, meaning “in the absence of,” has been common in US legalese (and maybe Canadian, too) for a long time. It seems to have originated as an absolutive construction.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    Bill, thanks for your comment. I am not a lawyer or hang around lawyers, so I was not aware of this use in legalese. It is not surprising that a term or usage originating in the technical language or even technical style of a profession (as here) should gradually find its way into the writing style of members of the public, first among those familiar with the profession. I don’t think I have heard this in speech, but it seems fairly frequent in newspaper editorials and opinion columns.
    I agree with you about the probable origin, a calque of Latin, but the present use seems to be turning the word into a preposition.

  32. “Go” is such a semantically bleached motion verb that “went sailing” is practically as manner-centric as “sailed”.
    But is there a way to draw a principled distinction between this case and Spanish “salió flotando”?”
    Those aren’t structually analogous. “Go sailing” does not mean “to leave by sailing” it means “to off and do sailing” as in “go fishing”.
    The dualism someone decried upthread is perhaps to rigidly binary, but as long as we don’t push them too far , they can be provisionally useful.
    For instance when you are learning Chinese, it’s useful to a student to point out that there is a large category of verbs of holding, all manner specific, and that you have to use these correctly when you from the constructions that convey carrying and bringing and taking, since there are no primary words for those actions. There is something similar with verbs of cutting but it has more to do with what is being cut,almost like some kind of classificatory verb, as I remember but not very clearly.
    I disagree that English-speaking teachers of English-speaking students of English don’t need some grounding in linguistics to teach well. They need it to teach their students at least to recognize and see through the all too common little obfuscatory manipulative tricks of people who use passivization, or nominalization – surely one of English’s besetting sins! – to hide arguments of verbs, so that when someone says “X group is marginalized by the hegemonic discourse” or some such twaddle, the kids can call bullshit on that – “No, honey – nobody marginalized them; they’re just plain marginal.” And also “Naw, a discourse can’t do anything, it’s not animate.” As well as maybe even knowing what really is and really isn’t “passive”.

  33. @vanya: Interestingly German often uses participles to qualify the manner of motion with the word “kommen” – “die Katze kommt immer angerannt wenn ich rufe” (the cat always comes up [to me] when I call” or “der Vogel kam auf mich zugeflogen” (the bird flew right towards me), but it seems to me that you can’t do the same thing with “gehen” – people just tend to use the verb – “wegrennen” or “wegfliegen”. Any native speakers agree?
    I agree more or less, if by participle you mean past participle. Many standard locutions seem to indicate the contrary: Er ging beleidigt aus dem Zimmer. But beleidigt is not an adverb, is not (here) the past participle of beleidigen, and does not qualify the manner of his going. It indicates the state he was in, namely “in a huff”. So the English would be “He left the room in a huff”.
    German sentences often include words that may seem to be adverbs if you’re applying simple-minded English-type grammar. To the novice, the words appear to float around in the sentence far from what they “refer to” or “specify”. The oddness vanishes if you think of them as single-word prepositional phrases, like “in a rage”.
    However, with gehen present participles can be used: Er ging hinkend/stacksend/torkelnd aus dem Zimmer [limped, stalked, tottered]. But not Er ging rasend aus dem Zimmer. This means “He left the room in a rage”. For “He raced out of the room” you would have to say Er raste aus dem Zimmer. This is not something general and mysterious, but just a detail concerning the fact that rasend is an adjective often used predicatively: Als er aus der Besprechung mit dem Chef zurück kam, war er rasend. You don’t say Er war hinkend/stacksend/torkelnd, but Er hinkte/stackste/torkelte.
    I noticed these things decades ago, along with several other things that gave me the feeling that German is an “impressionistic” language. Previously, I had been enamored of the mathematical, explicit-subordination, open/close-bracket syntax of German.
    @Peignoir: German always struck me as somehow clumsy because of expressions like Er kam ins Zimmer herein (correct me if I’ve got it wrong), where not only is there a preposition (in), there is also a separable verb that consists of a motion verb (kommen) and a particle indicating direction (herein). I have to remind myself that hereinkommen is equivalent to ‘enter’, so it basically means ‘enter into’. The trouble is, it’s not really the same as ‘enter into’, because hereinkommen is so transparently made up of two elements.
    Er kam ins Zimmer. You don’t need herein, because ins gives you the direction. You can of course use both, as in Hereinspaziert in die gute Stube ! [“Step right in to our cozy little living room !”]. Hereinkommen, as you say, does not mean ‘enter into’, it means ‘enter’: Kommen Sie herein !
    @marie-lucie: Absent a material proof
    German has the corresponding preposition mangels with the genitive: Mangels konkreter Beweise …. You can also use in Ermangelung with the genitive: In Ermangelung konkreter Beweise.

  34. Flub-up alarm: the word is spelled staksen, not stacksen.

  35. Hereinkommen, as you say, does not mean ‘enter into’, it means ‘enter’
    To be more precise: hereinkommen means “enter”-towards-the-speaker’s-location.

  36. I’ve found Talmy’s typology fascinating since I encountered it several years ago. Those who find the statement of the typology above overly binary (or are just interested in reading more about the topic) may enjoy this 2004 paper by Dan Slobin: The many ways to search for a frog. It covers various ways in which subsequent research has complicated the original dichotomy.

  37. He left the room in a huff.
    “Say! You cover a lot of ground yourself. You’d better beat it. I hear they’re gonna tear you down and put up an office building where you’re standing. You can leave in a taxi. If you can’t get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that’s too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff. You know, you haven’t stopped talking since I came here. You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle.” —Groucho flaming Margaret Dumont in Duck Soup

  38. Bathrobe says:

    That paper of Slobin’s is a fascinating paper!

  39. “Er ging hinkend”
    Stu, that’s interesting for a completely differenet reason. There is an word I have heard law enforcement types use to describe uncooperative or reluctant witnesses – “hinky”. “She was talking fine until I asked about X and she got hinky.” It specifically does not mean defiant or oppositional. I wonder if it some impressionistic use of a half-remembered, half-understood word someone heard a grandmother back in Iowa use that popped up years later out of the dim recesses. There is a vague semantic similarity, or extension.

  40. Except that hinky is a variant of hincty (1. ‘snobbish, haughty’; 2. ‘wary or extremely cautious, feeling suspicion’), originally African-American dialect (first attested in a 1924 blues collection) and unlikely to have come from any grandmother back in Iowa.

  41. So hinky-pinky is not the same as hanky-panky. Do you know any more about the origin of “hincty” ?

  42. Trond Engen says:

    No, that’s exactly the same reason.
    Norwegian hinke means “jump on one foot” rather than “limp”. B&L suggest it’s related to the ‘skank’ root through s-mobile.

  43. Do you know any more about the origin of “hincty” ?
    “Origin unknown.”

  44. I wonder about the spelling of “hincty”, with a “c”. Whoever wrote that must have associated it with some other word, possibly one ending in “-inct” like “precinct”, then added a “-y” to make an adjective. But the assumption would then have been that there is a word “hinc”.

  45. I mean: a word “hinct” plus “-y”, or a word “hinc” plus “-ty”.

  46. @marie_lucie, on the subject of occupied France learning the German order “heraus” (P) as “sortez” (V), how about “dehors”, or “va-t-en”, both wholly idiomatic French imperatives?
    “Dehors” is Latin, too, not Germanic.
    “Debout” is a better example because its verbal counterpart was lost (“stare” -> “etre”)

  47. marie-lucie says:

    Alex,
    Your suggestions are indeed idiomatic, but they are not all equally suitable for the situation I described. “Sortez!” is what first comes to my mind, and it is the only imperative which fits this situation. The plural verb form could apply whether one or several persons were inside the house: eveyone had to get out.
    “Dehors!” means “Outside!” or, here, “Out!”, both of which are more likely to be uttered by someone inside a building, trying to get an intruder (or a child or an animal) to leave. “Va-t’en!” is the least appropriate choice here: it means “Go away!” or “Get away!” (and it is the “tu” form only). The Germans outside a French dwelling wanted the inhabitants to come out to meet them (the exact situation requiring heraus), not to get away from them (especially if they intended to make an arrest).
    Debout is a better example because its verbal counterpart was lost (“stare” -> “etre”): I am not sure what you mean by this.

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