Conceptual Categories and Linguistic Categories

Course LING 7800-009
LSA Linguistic Institute
July 2011
University of Colorado, Boulder

General Information:

Course Description:

This course will explore conceptual categories that find expression in language, and, thus, that are central to the mapping between words and the world, while highlighting the methodological issues involved in the identification of such categories. The greater part of the course will be devoted to conceptual categories claimed to be central to the representation of events and states and, concomitantly, to the classification of verbs, including scalar change, external vs. internal causation, possession, and motion. The remainder will consider the domain of entities, exploring those conceptual categories that affect the naming of entities and the grammatical properties of nouns, such as artifacts vs. natural kinds and the mass/count distinction. Class discussion and readings will provide theoretical, typological, and psycholinguistic perspectives on the material covered.

Background reading:

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


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


Handouts from Lectures:

Lecture I:


Lecture II:

Manner and Result as Grammatically Relevant Ontological Categories

Lecture III:

More on Scalar Change, Lexicalization, and Argument Realization

Lecture IV, Part 1:

Manner/Result Complementarity

Lecture IV, Part 2:

The Causative Alternation: A First Look

Lecture V:

Distinguishing Lexicalized Meaning From Context: A Monadic Analysis of the Causative Alternation

Lecture VI:

A Crosslinguistic Verb-sensitive Approach to Dative Verbs

Lecture VII:

A Crosslinguistic Perspective on the Linguistic Encoding of Possession Events

Lecture VIII:

Nouns and Individuation

Return to Beth Levin's home page.