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By William Marsden

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Partly, this situation is a result of the relative neglect of the lexicon as a focus of interest in mainstream linguistics (though not in the sub-field of cognitive linguistics), in favour of syntax. There are important syntactic or morphosyntactic properties associated with ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ verbs in languages, particularly the unusual behaviour of ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ verbs in terms of their transitivity (cf. Amberber 2002 and Næss, this volume). But this behavior is relatively subtle and, I fear, has not come to the attention of many syntacticians.

Crucially, it is the effect on the agent which is the primary goal of an act of eating or drinking; the effect on the patient is, from the agent’s perspective, of secondary importance. In Caughley’s words, the patient of an act of eating or drinking is indeed ‘not the prime target of the action’, and ‘only incidentally affected’, in that the effect that the agent primarily seeks to achieve How transitive are eat and drink verbs?  through an act of eating or drinking is an effect on himself – the elimination of hunger or thirst.

Dictionary of the Hausa language, 2nd Edn. London: Hodder and Stoughton. Alpher, Barry. 1991. Yir-Yoront lexicon. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Amberber, Mengistu. This volume & [2002]. Quirky alternations of transitivity: The case of ingestive predicates. Originally published in Language universals and variation, Mengistu Amberber & Peter Collins (Eds), 2002, 1–19. Westport CT: Praeger. Caughley, Ross C. 1982. The syntax and morphology of the verb in Chepang. Canberra: Australian National University.

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A grammar of the Malayan language by William Marsden


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