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Effect Before Cause

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How Content Affects Form

image of Cognitive Semantics

In the present study, I look at a regularity first observed in Talmy (2000: 483), who showed that in sentences describing sequences of events of the cause-and-effect type, effect events take precedence over causes. They tend to be mentioned first in a sentence, and grammatical patterns exist where cause events cannot be expressed before effects. I use Talmy’s observation to argue against an excessive emphasis on idiosyncrasy of grammatical constructions. Specifically, I will show that the effect-over-cause precedence visible at sentence level, applies especially well, on a smaller scale, to clauses, constraining the range of forms that constructions can take. Thus, the form of constructions is determined by factors like viable arrangements of events within a clause and the metaphoric grounding of meanings that a given construction conveys. Such constraints result in striking convergences between constructions in different languages.

Affiliations: 1: University of Silesia, Poland,


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