Lao separation verbs and the logic of linguistic event categorization
Enfield, N. J.
Lao separation verbs and the logic of linguistic event categorization. Cognitive Linguistics, 18
(2), 287-296. doi:10.1515/COG.2007.016.
While there are infinite conceivable events of material separation, those actually encoded in the conventions of a given language's verb semantics number only a few. Furthermore, there appear to be crosslinguistic parallels in the native verbal analysis of this conceptual domain. What are the operative distinctions, and why these? This article analyses a key subset of the bivalent (transitive) verbs of cutting and breaking in Lao. I present a decompositional analysis of the verbs glossed 'cut (off)', 'cut.into.with.placed.blade', 'cut.into.with.moving.blade', and 'snap', pursuing the idea that the attested combinations of sub-events have a natural logic to them. Consideration of the nature of linguistic categories, as distinct from categories in general, suggests that the attested distinctions must have ethnographic and social interactional significance, raising new lines of research for cognitive semantics.