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Reference and clausal perception-verb complements

Kasper Boye1

1University of Copenhagen

Dept. of Nordic Studies and Linguistics, University of Copenhagen, Njalsgade 120, DK-2300 Copenhagen 8, Denmark. E-mail:

Citation Information: Linguistics. Volume 48, Issue 2, Pages 391–430, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: 10.1515/ling.2010.013, March 2010

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Clausal perception-verb complements are known to show a contrast in meaning between “object of perception” and “knowledge acquired”. This contrast has traditionally been analyzed denotationally in terms of a distinction between extra-linguistic entities belonging to two ontologically different types. However, Cognitive Grammar offers an analysis which is based on a distinction between two ways of construing the same conceptual content and does not presuppose the relevant notion of extra-linguistic entities. The present paper argues that both analyses are inadequate. On the basis of a number of relevant crosslinguistic data, it argues that the contrast under scrutiny must be understood in terms of a distinction which turns on a certain link between conceptual contents and extra-linguistic entities: reference. More precisely, it must be understood in terms of a distinction between nonreferring and referring status in the sense of Lyons 1977. A conception of this distinction is outlined, and an analysis is proposed which can bridge the gap between a purely cognitive and a purely denotational approach to clause meaning. Eventually, the paper sketches how the analysis can be adopted within Cognitive Grammar.

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