Lexical Semantics of Verbs

Course LSA 116
LSA Linguistic Institute
July 2009
University of California, Berkeley

General Information:

Course Description:

This course reviews foundational topics in the lexical semantics of verbs, bringing together insights from a range of theoretical perspectives. Since verbs are predicates of events, a theory of the lexical semantics of verbs must be a theory of which cognitively salient facets of events are relevant to argument realization---the mapping from lexical semantics to syntax. The course reviews the two leading approaches to event conceptualization: one takes events to be conceptualized in terms of their causal structure, the other in terms of their aspectual structure. The theories are assessed in terms of their ability to perspicuously identify semantic determinants of argument realization. Simultaneously, the course considers the form of a lexical semantic representation which embodies such theories of event conceptualization; it surveys theoretical constructs such as semantic roles, predicate decompositions, proto-roles, and thematic hierarchies. The course also reviews recent theories of semantic representation which incorporate a root/event structure distinction and explores a constraint on the meaning lexicalized by a verb root, manifested in the complementarity of manner and result as components of verb meaning.


The course assumes no specific background in lexical semantics, but does assume some familiarity with basic semantic and syntactic concepts.

Recommended text:

Levin, B. and M. Rappaport Hovav (2005) Argument Realization, Cambridge University Press.


Handouts from Lectures

Lecture 1:

Introduction and Role-Centered Approaches to Lexical Semantic Representation

Lecture 2:

The Structure of Event Structure

Lecture 3:

Causal Approaches to Lexical Semantic Representation

Lecture 4:

Aspectual Approaches to Lexical Semantic Representation

Lecture 5:

Scales, Scalar Change, and Manner/Result Complementarity

Lecture 6:

Assessing Semantic Determinants of Argument Realization

Return to Beth Levin's home page.