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Journal Article

When "go" means "come": Questioning the basicness of basic motion verbs


Wilkins,  David P.
Language and Cognition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Wilkins, D. P., & Hill, D. (1995). When "go" means "come": Questioning the basicness of basic motion verbs. Cognitive Linguistics, 6, 209-260. doi:10.1515/cogl.1995.6.2-3.209.

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The purpose of this paper is to question some of the basic assumpiions concerning motion verbs. In particular, it examines the assumption that "come" and "go" are lexical universals which manifest a universal deictic Opposition. Against the background offive working hypotheses about the nature of'come" and ''go", this study presents a comparative investigation of t wo unrelated languages—Mparntwe Arrernte (Pama-Nyungan, Australian) and Longgu (Oceanic, Austronesian). Although the pragmatic and deictic "suppositional" complexity of"come" and "go" expressions has long been recognized, we argue that in any given language the analysis of these expressions is much more semantically and systemically complex than has been assumed in the literature. Languages vary at the lexical semantic level äs t o what is entailed by these expressions, äs well äs differing äs t o what constitutes the prototype and categorial structure for such expressions. The data also strongly suggest that, ifthere is a lexical universal "go", then this cannof be an inherently deictic expression. However, due to systemic Opposition with "come", non-deictic "go" expressions often take on a deictic Interpretation through pragmatic attribution. Thus, this crosslinguistic investigation of "come" and "go" highlights the need to consider semantics and pragmatics äs modularly separate.