Structural asymmetries in the representation of giving and taking events

TitleStructural asymmetries in the representation of giving and taking events
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsYin, J., G. Csibra, and D. Tatone
Journal titleCognition
Year2022
Pages105248
Volume229
Abstract

Across languages, GIVE and TAKE verbs have different syntactic requirements: GIVE mandates a patient argument to be made explicit in the clause structure, whereas TAKE does not. Experimental evidence suggests that this asymmetry is rooted in prelinguistic assumptions about the minimal number of event participants that each action entails. The present study provides corroborating evidence for this proposal by investigating whether the observation of giving and taking actions modulates the inclusion of patients in the represented event. Participants were shown events featuring an agent (A) transferring an object to, or collecting it from, an animate target (B) or an inanimate target (a rock), and their sensitivity to changes in pair composition (AB vs. AC) and action role (AB vs. BA) was measured. Change sensitivity was affected by the type of target approached when the agent transferred the object (Experiment 1), but not when she collected it (Experiment 2), or when an outside force carried out the transfer (Experiment 3). Although these object-displacing actions could be equally interpreted as interactive (i.e., directed towards B), this construal was adopted only when B could be perceived as putative patient of a giving action. This evidence buttresses the proposal that structural asymmetries in giving and taking, as reflected in their syntactic requirements, may originate from prelinguistic assumptions about the minimal event participants required for each action to be teleologically well-formed.

LanguageEnglish
DOI10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105248
Publisher linkhttps://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027722002360
Unit: 
Cognitive Development Center (CDC)