Wiping the slate clean: A lexical semantic exploration

Beth Levin*, Malka Rappaport Hovav

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


This paper presents a case study in lexical semantic analysis aimed at uncovering syntactically relevant components of verb meaning. Our strategy is to investigate the nature of the lexical knowledge that a speaker of English possesses with respect to certain apparently semantically related verbs: a set of verbs that might as a first approximation be classed as verbs of removal. However, a closer examination of these apparently semantically related verbs reveals that their syntactic properties diverge. An exploration of the patterns of behavior of the verbs suggests that the initial class includes three linguistically significant subclasses. The components of meaning that are relevant to characterizing each subclass are identified by isolating those components of meaning that the members of each subclass share. The conclusion considers the implications of the meaning components identified in this study for a lexical semantic representation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)123-151
Number of pages29
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Dec 1991
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
*This paper grew out of earlier work on locative alternation verbs; see Rappaport and Levin (1988). We would like to thank Sue Atkins, Mary Laughren, Betsy Ritter, and two reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper. We are also grateful to Donald Hindle for searching the AP news wire for instances of many of the verbs we discuss here; these examples have been helpful in developing our analysis. This research was supported in part by NSF Grant BNS-8919884. Requests for reprints should be sent to Beth Levin, Department of Linguistics, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 602084090, USA.
Also appears in B. Levin and S. Pinker, eds., Lexical and Conceptual Semantics, Blackwell, Oxford.


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