Patient or Vehicle? Semantic roles in German and English descriptive verbs (revisited)
Keywords:case grammar, semantic roles, verb-descriptivity, modificant, agent, patient, vehicle
The paper investigates the problem of semantic roles within the concept of verb-descriptivity (Snell-Hornby 1983). Descriptive verbs are semantically complex lexical items, where the modifying components are more focal than the verbal action itself (as in bustle or strut), and where the participants, the background situation and the attitude of the speaker emerge as distinctive elements (as in grovel and waft). As against orthodox views in early case grammar, a distinction is made here between the Patient as “sufferer” of the verbal action and the Vehicle as its “conveyer”. It is argued that this differentiation is essential for the understanding, the analysis and the translation of descriptive verbs, as the semantic roles are by no means identical when compared in various languages (here English and German). This is illustrated by the comparison of lexemes in the semantic field of verbs expressing anger. The aim of the paper is to sharpen awareness of such fine distinctions, particularly in their relevance for translation.
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