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Perception verbs in Slavic: lexicon and grammar

The project is carried out by Dr. Maria Ovsjannikova and funded by the Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdocs from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

The project examines Slavic perception verbs, such as Bulgarian vidja ‘see(pf)’, Polish słuchać ‘listen(ipf)’, and Russian pakhnut’ ‘smell(ipf)’. Using the data of parallel corpora, the project addresses the lexical distribution and grammatical behaviour of verbs of perception in Slavic.

The lexical distribution will be explored by way of establishing lexical correspondences between Slavic perception verbs on the basis of parallel texts and investigating the contexts that deviate from these correspondences and thus give rise to variation between languages. The analysis of these contexts will indicate which features contribute to the fuzziness of the pre-established linguistic categories structuring the domain of perception such as agentivity and sensory mode. Another research question will concern the relations between the basic and the more peripheral members of the class; in particular, the question of whether and how verb’s frequency and meaning are associated with the degree of correspondence between the languages and thus with semantic change and lexical renewal.

The facets of grammatical behaviour of perception verbs addressed by the project include (i) aspectuality and Aktionsart, viz. the correspondences between perfective and imperfective verbs and the presence and semantics of the prefix; (ii) argument structure and voice, in particular the choice between experiencer-subject and stimulus-subject verbs as well as the presence and semantics of the reflexive marker; (iii) the distribution of clausal complementation strategies.

The project will contribute to the research on the perception verbs and the interaction between lexicon and grammar in Slavic languages, as well as to the general understanding of the domain of perception cross-linguistically.