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SSP Forum: Bonnie Krejci on variable behavior verbs

Monday, May 13, 2024
Margaret Jacks Hall (Bldg. 460)
Room 126
(See description for Notes on Entry)

Symbolic Systems Forum
(community sessions of SYMSYS 280 - Symbolic Systems Research Seminar)

From real-world events to linguistic descriptions: Lessons from “variable behavior verbs”

Bonnie Krejci
Symbolic Systems Program

Monday, May 13, 2024
12;30-1:20 pm PT
Margaret Jacks Hall (Bldg. 460), Room 126
In-person event, not recorded 
(see below for entry instructions if you are not an active Stanford affiliate)

Note: Lunch is provided, if pre-ordered, only for members of SYMSYS 280, but others are welcome to bring a lunch and eat during the presentation.


How are events that occur in the real world represented in language? How do we go from the chaotic, disorderly, “kaleidoscopic flux of impressions” that we observe in the world to a discrete representation — a particular verb, along with its arguments, arranged in an orderly syntactic structure? In this talk, I consider as a case study the linguistic puzzle of “variable behavior verbs” — a set of intransitive verbs that can appear in sentences with distinct syntactic structures, whose alternation between those structures depends on the meaning of their arguments and on the context in which they are used. Focusing on linguistic descriptions of weather events in English, like “it is raining”, and of existential events in Russian, like the equivalent of “there is a book on the table”, I account for variable behavior verbs by presenting a model of the relationship among happenings in the real world, verb meaning, and syntactic representation.


Entry to the building is open to anyone with an active Stanford ID via the card readers next to each door. If you do not have a Stanford ID, you can gain entry between 12:15 and 12:30pm ONLY by knocking on the exterior windows of room 126. These windows are to the left of the west side exterior door on the first floor of Margaret Jacks Hall, which faces the back east side of Building 420. Please do not knock on these windows after 12:30pm when the talk has started. We will not be able to come out and open the door for you at that point.