Motion Verbs in Italian and the Manner/Direction Complementarity

Simonetta Vietri


This paper presents an empirical analysis of Italian directed motion verbs and manner of motion verbs; the research is based on a lexical resource of 234 verbs subdivided into six classes. Directed motion verbs are analysed according to their argument structure and to the type of path PP they take: both source and goal PPs, only source PPs or only goal PPs. Furthermore, I have highlighted how the morphological, distributional and semantic properties of these verbs have an impact on their argument structure.

Manner of motion verbs are analysed according to their unaccusative/unergative structure and on the semantic components they entail: only Manner or Manner and Direction. Analysis of the data shows that the semantics of both types of motion verbs depends in many cases on the distributional context in which they occur. As a result, it is not always an easy task to generalize the semantic components the verbs lexicalize. The Italian data also show that, contrary to the hypothesis proposed by Rappaport Hovav & Levin (2010) and Levin & Rappaport Hovav (2013) on the opposition between manner and direction, a subset of Italian motion verbs encodes both manner and direction. Moreover, the Italian lexicon shows an abundance of manner of motion verbs that can resort to a satellite-framed strategy, suggesting that the clearcut opposition between satellite-framed and verb-framed languages claimed in Talmy (1985) boils down to a tendency.

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International Journal of Linguistics  ISSN 1948-5425  Email:

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