Max Planck Institute
for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Linguistics

Typological tools for field linguistics


Valency Questionnaire

Valence or valency is a semantic and a syntactic notion. As a semantic notion it refers to the number of participants 'on stage' in the scene expressed by the verb. Valence as grammatical notion concerns the number of arguments present in any given clause, and canonically they are expressed by a noun (phrase) or a pronominal element.

The study of verbal valency, the processes that alter it, and the expression of arguments, gives us information about what exactly constitutes the interface between the lexicon and the syntax of a language.

The study of verbal valency also helps us to discover more about the structure of the lexicon. For example: Which semantic notions are expressed by root words, and how do these differ (if at all) from the notions expressed in morphologically derived forms? Can we make crosslinguistic generalisations here, or does every language exhibit its own ideosyncratic lexical patterns? The questionnaire was designed to gather data for a workshop comparing different languages of Nusantara languages with respect to the semantic valency of their verbs, the manipulation of verbal arguments by derivational morphology, and the expression of verbal arguments in syntax.

The questionnaires
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Developed by
Marian Klamer for the 2000 East Nusantara Linguistics Workshop, workshop on valency