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Encyclopedia > Valency (linguistics)

In linguistics, valency or valence refers to the capacity of a verb to take a specific number and type of arguments (noun phrase positions). A monovalent verb (for example, sleep) cannot take a direct object (*he sleeps it). A trivalent verb has three arguments (e. g., give has the giver, the recipient, and the thing given). Linguistics is the scientific study of human language, and someone who engages in this study is called a linguist. ... A verb is a part of speech that usually denotes action (bring, read), occurrence (decompose, glitter), or a state of being (exist, stand). Depending on the language, a verb may vary in form according to many factors, possibly including its tense, aspect, mood and voice. ... A syntactic verb argument, in linguistics, is a phrase that appears in a relationship with the verb in a proposition. ... A noun, or noun substantive, is a part of speech (a word or phrase) which can co-occur with (in)definite articles and attributive adjectives, and function as the head of a noun phrase. ...


The linguistical meaning of valence is derived from the definition of valency in chemistry. In chemistry, valency is the power of an atom of an element to combine with other atoms measured by the number of electrons which an atom will give, take, or share to form a chemical bond. ... Chemistry (from the Greek word χημεία (chemeia) meaning cast together or pour together) is the science of matter at the atomic to molecular scale, dealing primarily with collections of atoms (such as molecules, crystals, and metals). ...


Valency is closely related, though not identical, to transitivity. Transitivity refers to the number of core arguments of the verb that are not optional (giving intransitive verbs, transitive verbs, and ditransitive verbs). For example: An intransitive verb is a verb that has only one argument, that is, a verb with valency equal to one. ... A transitive verb is a verb that requires both a subject and one or more objects. ... In grammar, a ditransitive verb is a verb which takes a subject and two objects. ...

(1) Newlyn lies. (valency of lie = 1, intransitive)
(2) John kicks the ball. (valency of kick = 2, transitive)
(3) John gives Mary a flower. (valency of give = 3, ditransitive)

The concept of valency is however undermined by the fact that non-optional or core meanings are hard to pin down. For example:

(4) Ask, and God will give.
(5) John kicks Mary the ball.
(6) The horse kicks.

and it becomes rather difficult to define what is non-optional. Modern trends such as cognitive grammars take the view that optionality is a gradation, i.e. different arguments have different degrees of co-occurrence, and this makes valency a moot issue. Cognitive Grammar and construction grammar are aspects of cognition that is of interest to cognitive linguists, c. ...


Lexical Valency

The term valence has a related technical meaning in lexical semantics that elaborates on the role of argument structure - it refers to the capacity of other lexical units to combine with the given word. For instance, valence is one of the elements defining a construction in some Construction Grammars. This sense of the term, sometimes called Lexical Valency, is related to the above, but is far richer than the numerical notion inherited from Chemistry. Lexical semantics is a field in computer science and linguistics which deals mainly with word meaning. ... The term construction grammar (CxG) covers a family of theories, or models, of grammar that are based on the idea that the primary unit of grammar is the grammatical construction rather than the atomic syntactic unit and the rule that combines atomic units, and that the grammar of a language...


See also

In mathematics and computer programming the arity of a function or an operator is the number of arguments or operands it takes (arity is sometimes referred to as valency, although that actually refers to another meaning of valency in mathematics). ...

External links

  • English Valency Structures - A first sketch
  • The difference between lexical and grammatical valency

 
 

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