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Workshop: States and Events

Davidson’s (1967) proposal to augment the argument structure of ‘action’ verbs with an event argument has proven to be very useful in explicating the meaning of verbal predicates, especially in the relationship between meaning to syntactic structure, and has enabled a treatment of adverbial modification, foremost manner modification, in terms of intersective event modification. The Neo-Davidsonian suggestion to introduce something like an event argument also for states and even for non-verbal predicates (e.g. Higginbotham 1985, Parsons 1990, Landman 2000) has been met with more resistance. One of the reasons for treating states differently, for example, is that they are commonly incompatible with manner modification (cf. Katz’s 2003 Stative Adverb Gap; see also Maienborn 2003 et seq., Katz 2008). Others have argued that there is no ontological difference between states and events, rather states are conceptually ‘poorer’ and thus compatible with fewer adverbs (e.g. Mittwoch 2005, Geuder 2006, Ernst 2011). Yet others have called into question some of the empirical basis for making such clear-cut distinction between events and states (e.g. Rothstein 2005) or proposed a broader definition of the notion of event, to also include states (e.g. Ramchand 2005). Additionally, work such as that of Husband (2012) and Roy (2014) has attributed properties of certain statives to internal conceptual structure of the states they refer to.

There are also processing studies that aim at providing evidence for the assumption that eventualities more generally can differ in structural complexity (e.g. McKoon and MacFarland 2000, 2002, Gennari and Poeppel 2003, Mobayyen and de Almeida 2005). Gennari and Poeppel (2003), for example, compare the processing speed of eventive versus stative verbs in a lexical decision paradigm, employing a self-paced reading technique. They start out from the assumption that eventive predicates have a more complex semantics and syntax, in the sense that eventive predicates entail simpler conceptual units such as CAUSE, BECOME, or CHANGE and resulting STATE, corresponding to the event’s internal dynamics they denote, whereas stative verbs lack such entailments. Their results indicate that eventive verbs take longer to process than stative verbs.

Hence, general questions to be addressed at this workshop include the following: What is a state? How do states relate to events? Is the notion of “state” a primitive notion in an event ontology, or if (some) states have internal complexity, how so? Do states make available an event argument? How are stative predicates to be represented at the interface with syntax, with e.g Katz’s 2003 Stative Adverb Gap in mind, and recognizing that the compositional hypothesis is to date much more fleshed-out for events than for states? Does boundedness play a role at the level of grammar in distinguishing eventive from stative predicates? The notion of boundedness may be intuitively clear but it has been characterized in several ways and can encompass forms of telicity and perfectivity (e.g. Krifka1998, Borik 2006). A general question is whether it is possible and useful to have such an overarching notion. Are there more fine-grained ontological distinctions, perhaps related to causation, that are relevant to answering the above questions? In particular, if states are involved in causation, how? Is there psycho-linguistic evidence in favor of making a clear distinction between states and events?

In addition, the literature identifies different kinds of states, such as dynamic vs. static states (e.g. Bach 1981, 1986; Dowty 1979 labels the former interval statives) or Davidsonian vs. Kimian states (Maienborn 2003 et seq.; see also Rothmayr 2006, Marín 2013), and a general question is whether these distinctions are needed and what their empirical basis is. For example, do different classes of verbs (e.g. posture verbs and various types of psychological predicates) fall into one or the other? Do we need further distinctions within the class of states? Do we need the notion of inchoative states (e.g. de Swart 1998, Marín & McNally 2011), which also relates to boundedness more generally, and how are inchoative states different from achievements (in the sense of Vendler 1967 or Dowty 1979)? Connected to this is the issue how to mediate between the concerns of a compositional treatment of the telicity of accomplishments and of achievements, without turning the latter into a sort of special/idiomatic case. A further distinction is made between lexical states and derived states (e.g. Progressive, adjectival passives, different kinds of nominalizations, etc.), and the general question is what these two kinds of states have in common and how they relate to the events that the underlying verbal predicates often refer to (cf. Gehrke 2011 et seq., Fábregas & Marín 2012 for some recent discussion of adjectival passives and nominalizations, respectively). What about boundedness of events denoted by nominal expressions? Furthermore, is the individual-level/stage-level distinction (Carlson 1977, Milsark 1974), which also divides states into two classes, to be maintained? If so, how is it represented, how does it relate to other divisions made among states, and does it apply to states only or also to events?

This workshop will collect talks that address these and other related questions. We are particularly interested in talks that relate notions of stativity to notions of eventivity.

Workshop program: Saturday April 18th, 2015 
(info concerning the workshop location available here)

9:00—9:30  Welcome

9:30—10:30 Ashwini Deo (Yale University)
Copular contrasts and the individual-level/stage-level distinction

10:30—11:15 Simone Alex-Ruf (University of Tuebingen)
The complexity of events: The empirical side of the event-state distinction

11:15—11:45 Coffee break

11:45—12: 30 Gillian Ramchand (University of Tromsø & CASTL)
States and Causation: The Curious Case of Labile Adjectives in English

12:30—13:15 Rebekah Baglini (University of  San Diego)
Reference to states across lexical categories

13:15—14:45 Lunch break

14.45—15:30 Peter Arkadiev (Insitute for Slavic Studies, Moscow) and Dimitri Gerasimov (Insitute for Linguistic Studies, St. Petersburg)
Two types of derived states in Bzhedug Adyghe

15:30—16:15 Shiaowei Tham (Wellesley College)
Property concepts and spatial configurational states in Mandarin

16:15—16:45  Coffee break

16:45—17:30 Nino Grillo (Universität Stuttgart) and Keir Moulton (Simon Fraser University)
Mismatching Pseudo-Relatives Describe Event Kinds

17:30—18:30 Peter Hallman (University of Vienna)
Temporal perspective in the state/event distinction

Alternate papers:
  Alfredo Garcia Pardo (University of Southern California)
Structuring adjectival passives cross-linguistically: an aspectual approach

  Antonio Fàbregas (Universitetet i Tromsø) and Rafael Marìn (CNRS, Université Lille 3) 
Between states and events

Workshop organizers:
Patricia Cabredo Hofherr, Bridget Copley, Berit Gehrke, Elena Soare, Lucia Tovena

Financial support from the following institutions is gratefully acknowledged:


  Programme Ontologie et Typologie des Etats
(TUL FR2559, CNRS) 
Programme DelimitEvent
(TUL FR2559, CNRS)