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Siva Kalyan


Bachelor of Asia-Pacific Studies (Honours (First Class), Japanese Linguistics), Australian National University, 2011


Title: From "psychologically plausible" to "psychologically testable": Profile determinacy, focal prominence, and scanning in Cognitive Grammar

My thesis aims to show that the semantic descriptions of grammatical constructions proposed in Ronald Langacker's framework of Cognitive Grammar can be experimentally verified. In particular, I investigate four types of constructions:

  • Finite complementation (e.g. I know that she left); sentences of this type are presumed to denote the same event as the first verb (in this case, a state of 'knowing' rather than a process of 'leaving')
  • Three-participant clauses (e.g. She gave the boy a book/She gave a book to the boy); the first object in each construction is analysed as the secondary topic, and the second object as the tertiary topic
  • Existential constructions (e.g. A book is on the table/There is a book on the table); in the first clause-type, the topic is said to be the located object (the book), whereas in the second clause-type, the topic is said to be the "scope of attention" (the scene as a whole, including both the book and the table)
  • Non-finite clausal complements (e.g. She made him wipe the table, as opposed to She said he wiped the table); in the former, the denoted event is said to be "summarily scanned", i.e. visualised like a multiple-exposure photograph, as opposed to a video (as in the latter sentence, which exemplifies "sequential scanning")

I attempt to formulate these descriptions in psychological terms, and use a variety of experimental techniques (questionnaires, production experiments, and reaction-time studies) to test them. The goal is not simply to provide support for particular semantic analyses, but to provide a set of empirical methods by which such analyses may be reliably arrived at.


Prof. Ewa Dąbrowska (primary)
Dr Andriy Myachykov (secondary)
Dr James Street (tertiary)

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Faculty of Arts, Design & Social Sciences
Northumbria University
The Glenamara Centre
Lipman Building, room 127
Newcastle upon Tyne

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