Hitting the nail on the head: Force vectors in verb semantics

Anja Goldschmidt, Joost Zwarts


We present an analysis of force verbs, like hit, as involving paths with force-dynamic properties, modelled through force vectors. This allows us to explain a number of observations about the lexical meaning and composition of these verbs. For instance, force adverbs such as hard specify the magnitude of the force vectors, while certain prepositions contribute information about their direction. The interpretation of resultative sentences with force verbs can also be explained. Resultative sentences like to hit the nail into the door are analysed as complex events with caused results. This requires a force-dynamic computation with the force vectors involved in the first event, leading to the second event, and might explain otherwise mysterious incompatibilities of force modifiers and results that we observe for German.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/salt.v26i0.3780