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Dux, Ryan

Dux, Ryan (Mr)

Email ryandux@utexas.edu


Linguistics, German language

SToRE Membership

SToRE member from Oct 2012 until Mar 2014

1. advisor: Prof. Dr. Dietrich Busse
2. advisor: Prof. Dr. Alexander Ziem

PhD Project

Verb Classification in German and English

In my dissertation, I undertake a comprehensive analysis of the semantic and syntactic properties of various verb classes in both German and English. My goal is to shed light on the relation between verbal meaning and syntax and its implications for verb classification, and to identify systematic and idiosynratic differences among related verbs of German and English. Important evidence for my project involves the differing syntactic behavior of semantically similar verbs both within and across languages. For instance, while turn and change can often be used in the same contexts (1), in other contexts only one verb is acceptable (2).

(1) She {changed/turned} him into a frog.

(2) a. The man {changed/*turned}.

b. The light {turned/?changed} green.

Interesting crosslinguistic differences with these verbs include grammatical ones, such as the correspondence between English intransitive patterns and German reflexive pronouns (3), and lexical ones, such as the existence of prefixed and nonprefixed verb pairs in German (ändern-verändern).

(3) Er änderte sich. ~ He changed.

I begin by introducing various approaches to verb classification and argument realization, including Levin’s (1993) alternation-based approach, aspectual approaches building on Vendler (1957), and role-based approaches such as Dowty (1991). I also comment on lexicographic and NLP classifications such as WordNet and VerbNet, as well as on classifications proposed for German, including GermaNet and SALSA.

Next, I introduce Frame Semantics (Fillmore 1985) and Construction Grammar (Goldberg 1995). These frameworks represent a comprehensive, cognitive approach to the syntax-semantics interface and language in general. Frame Semantics emphasizes the importance of encyclopedic knowledge required to use and understand lexical items, and it employs an empirical, corpus-based approach to identifying verbal behavior. Construction Grammar attempts to account for all aspects of language (semantics, phonology, pragmatics, etc.) using a unified format for representing form-meaning pairings. Recent research in these fields has investigated in depth the relationship between verbs and the syntactic constructions they appear in, an endeavor with which my dissertation will assist.

The bulk of my dissertation involves the analysis of German and English verbs in the domains of Changing (turn, verändern), Social Interaction (marry, heiraten), and Theft (steal, stehlen). I use corpus data, lexical resources, and native speaker intuitions to document the verbs’ semantic and syntactic properties, identifying similarities and differences among verbs of both languages. I then determine the extent to which existing classification approaches capture the full range of verbal behavior and whether the same criteria can be applied to different classes and different languages. Finally, I build on existing approaches by proposing a revised classification of these verbs within the frame-constructional approach.

This project will contribute not only to the theoretical questions described above, but it will also reveal important cross-linguistic differences in the inventory of lexical items and syntactic constructions of German and English and contribute to the development of lexical resources.

-Dowty, David. 1991. “Thematic Proto-roles and Argument Selection.” Language 67, 547–619.

-Fillmore, Charles J. 1985. “Frames and the Semantics of Understanding.” Quaderni Di Semantica 6 (2): 222–254.

-Goldberg, Adele E. 1995. Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to Argument Structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

-Levin, Beth. 1993. English Verb Classes and Alternations: A Preliminary Investigation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Dux, Ryan. Under review. “Frames, Verbs, and Constructions: German Constructions with Verbs of Stealing.” In Ziem, Alexander and Hans C. Boas (ed.): Constructional Approaches to Argument Structure in German.

Boas, Hans C. and Ryan Dux. Under review. “Semantic Frames for Foreign Language Education: Towards a German Frame-based Dictionary.” In: Frame Semantics and its Technological Applications (Veredas Special Issue).

Conference presentations

“The English rob/steal Alternation and its German Equivalents.” Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft. Potsdam, Germany. March 2013.

Ryan Dux and Hans C. Boas. “On Categorizing Semantic Roles and Frame Elements: What is the proper level of granularity?” Role Complexes: (New) Approaches to Defining Semantic Roles. Zurich, Switzerland. April 2011.

“Bringing Linguistics to the Language Classroom: Using Frame Semantics for Vocabulary Acquisition.” Berkeley Germanic Linguistics Roundtable. Berkeley, CA. March 2012.

“Is Stealing the Same in German and English? A cross-linguistic comparison of the Theft frame.” Germanic Linguistics Annual Conference 17. Austin, TX. April 2011.

“Grammaticalization and Polysemy in the German Recipient Passive.” Germanic Linguistics Annual Conference 17. Bloomington, Indiana. April 2012

Prizes and fellowships

2012-2013. Fulbright Grant (University Student/Doctoral Student). Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf, Germany.

2007-2008. University of Wisconsin – Bonn Fellowship. Study fellowship at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn, Germany.

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