Monday, June 8, 2015

Verbs vs adjectives or discrete event versus persistence in time

I find the "verb"/"adjective" distinction increasingly unworkable. Verbs that represent a state persisting in time become very much like adjectives: "He is sleeping" versus a discrete event "He slept". Since "He sleeps" is persistent it is adjective-like and only in the past tense is it verb-like. So even in the different conjugations of the "same verb", we get ontological differences.

I also have been making a false distinction between transitive verbs (with actor-target) and single-actor verbs; because many single actor verbs describe a persistent state which is, effectively adjective-like: "He runs". But this does not work when it comes to single actor verbs that are discrete events in time: "He ran", "He coughed".

So let us abandon two things: the use of "adjective" and "verb" and the strong reliance on single-actor versus actor-target distinction. So persistence becomes "attribute" and discrete moment becomes "event". Can I pretend that discrete event single-actor verbs have an implicit target? Maybe they do. He slept on the bed. He coughed into the air.

So I am going to try this:
  • Verb-like for actor-target relations that occur at a discrete moment in time (target may be implicit).
  • Adjective-like for everything else, single actor or actor-target, that persists in time.
The convention will be that any discrete moment of time involves an actor-target pair. When the target is always the same and contained in the verb, then it can implicit.

"He slept"  diagrams as (He)slept->[Z] and if Z is not a bed it can become explicit as something else. In other words I am speculating that: single actor and discrete moment are only combined when there is a default target.

We can add some consequences: a persistent state (adjective) has a beginning (verb) and an end (verb) and can exist in the past (a verb). Conversely, a verb that persists is an adjective. Hence
"I love you" either persists as an attribute of 'I' or has a beginning or ending in time and becomes an event or action..... A bit awkward but closer to right than what I had. [I mean the semantic analysis not the love affair :) ]

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