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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access December 31, 2018

The language of an inanimate narrator

  • Thijs Trompenaars EMAIL logo , Lotte Hogeweg , Wessel Stoop and Helen de Hoop
From the journal Open Linguistics


We show by means of a corpus study that the language used by the inanimate first person narrator in the novel Specht en zoon deviates from what we would expect on the basis of the fact that the narrator is inanimate, but at the same time also differs from the language of a human narrator in the novel De wijde blik on several linguistic dimensions. Whereas the human narrator is associated strongly with action verbs, preferring the Agent role, the inanimate narrator is much more limited to the Experiencer role, predominantly associated with cognition and sensory verbs. Our results show that animacy as a linguistic concept may be refined by taking into account the myriad ways in which an entity’s conceptual animacy may be expressed: we accept the conceptual animacy of the inanimate narrator despite its inability to act on its environment, showing this need not be a requirement for animacy.


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Received: 2018-10-30
Accepted: 2018-08-28
Published Online: 2018-12-31
Published in Print: 2018-12-01

© by Thijs Trompenaars, et al., published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.

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