Temperaments, tempers, and temporality
Constructions reveal how speakers of French and English conceptualize human properties
This study focuses on French and English abstract nouns denoting properties that can be ascribed to humans, such as beauty, carefulness and anger. Previous research showed that some but not all of these nouns are licensed in both locative existentials (e.g., There’s an intense anger in Isabella) and possessive existentials (e.g., Isabella has an intense anger). What remains unclear is how these and other patterns correlate among themselves depending on how easily they host such nouns. We here use speaker ratings of these nouns in different constructional environments. A principal component analysis suggests that the main dimension underlying native speakers’ ratings of these abstract nouns in six different patterns is temporal limitability. This gradable distinction, strongly correlated with the locative existential, holds for both the French and English data and outweighs any French-English contrastive differences in how acceptable human property nouns are considered to be in the patterns studied.
Keywords: human property noun, conceptual autonomy, temporal limitability, existential construction, English/French
Published online: 08 May 2020
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