Principles of event representation in language: The case of motion events
Enfield, Nicholas J.
Ameka, Felix K.
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We examine universals and cross-linguistic variation in constraints on event segmentation. Previous typological studies have focused on segmentation into syntactic (Pawley 1987) or intonational units (Givón 1991). We argue that the correlation between such units and semantic/conceptual event representations is language-specific. As an alternative, we introduce the ‘macro-event property’ (MEP): a construction has the MEP if it packages event representations such that temporal operators necessarily have scope over all subevents. A case study on the segmentation of motion events into macro-event expressions in 18 genetically and typologically diverse languages has produced evidence of two types of design principles that impact motion event segmentation: language-specific lexicalization patterns and universal constraints on form-to-meaning mapping.