Tolls for Understanding the Diversity of Semantic Structure
Across languages, semantic structures display massive variability. At the same time, common patterns emerge that unify even the most disparate semantic systems. My research addresses the role of cognitive biases in explaining these common patterns and in guiding language learning and creation. I study language for describing events, and will focus in this talk on the thematic role Instrument, as in “Marnie cut the bread with a knife.” Integrated evidence from English, Dutch, Spanish and Mandarin as well as emerging signed languages points toward a conceptual/semantic interface in which cognitive biases guide semantic structure while permitting extensive variability.