Verb-argument lability and its correlations with other typological parameters. A quantitative corpus-based study
Keywords:verb-argument lability, corpora, Universal Dependencies, word order, case marking, tight-fit and loose-fit languages
We investigate the correlations between A- and P-lability for verbal arguments with other typological parameters using large, syntactically annotated corpora of online news in 28 languages. To estimate how much lability is observed in a language, we measure associations between Verbs or Verb + Noun combinations and the alternating constructions in which they occur. Our correlational analyses show that high P-lability scores correlate strongly with the following parameters: little or no case marking; weaker associations between lexemes and the grammatical roles A and P; rigid order of Subject and Object; and a high proportion of verb-medial clauses (SVO). Low P-lability correlates with the presence of case marking, stronger associations between nouns and grammatical roles, relatively flexible ordering of Subject and Object, and verb-final order. As for A-lability, it is not correlated with any other parameters. A possible reason is that A-lability is a result of more universal discourse processes, such as deprofiling of the object, and also exhibits numerous lexical and semantic idiosyncrasies. The fact that P-lability is strongly correlated with other parameters can be interpreted as evidence for a more general typology of languages, in which some tend to have highly informative morphosyntactic and lexical cues, whereas others rely predominantly on contextual environment, which is possibly due to fixed word order. We also find that P-lability is more strongly correlated with the other parameters than any of these parameters are with each other, which means that it can be a very useful typological variable.
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