University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


In sequences like ‘Lisa frightened/blamed Kate because she…’, verbs influence the likelihood of subsequent pronouns referring to subjects or objects, an effect called implicit causality. In addition to its significance for theories of reference resolution, this effect is important for cognitive and socio-cultural research. A fundamental question has to do with the source of implicit causality effects and how they relate to verb classes (e.g. Stimulus-Experiencer). Furthermore, many researchers use implicit causality as a tool to investigate other aspects of pronoun interpretation. Crucially, this work requires access to pre-existing information about the subject-vs.-object biases of individual verbs. Large-scale studies provide public datasets for English and Spanish. However, lack of large public datasets for typologically-diverse languages is a serious limitation. It is problematic for practical reasons (it poses challenges for experiments on languages without accessible implicit causality norms) and theoretical reasons (it limits our ability to understand implicit causality effects). To address this, we conducted a large-scale study of 149 verbs in Vietnamese and provide a comparison between these Vietnamese verbs and their English equivalents revealing intriguing variations in their implicit causality biases. Crucially, this work creates a database which can serve as a tool for theoretical and practical applications of crosslinguistic research relating to implicit causality.



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