When Push Comes to Shove: A Study of the Relation between Interaction Dynamics and Verb Use

Clayton T. Morrison, Erin N. Cannon, and Paul R. Cohen

A significant portion of our language is devoted to referring to, expressing, and representing the temporally extended dynamics of our world. Following Tomasello (1992), we label the class of words used to refer to such dynamics as verbs. Cohen (1998) presents a framework for distinguishing interactions involving whole-body objects by considering the dynamics of the before, during (contact), and after phases of interaction. These phases are characterized using dynamic maps to plot various measures of the physical interaction. The maps-for-verbs framework proposes that a representation based on the dynamics of before, during and after interaction are a foundation for the semantics of verbs describing physical interactions between objects. Here we report a preliminary study of the use of this framework to predict the verb use of adults describing simple whole-body interactions.


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