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Abstract Schmidt


The metaphorical structure of causal categorization: English resultative constructions.

The present paper explores the applicability of Michotte’s (1963) psychological theory of phenomenal perception of causation to the problem of the cognitive grounding of causative and resultative constructions in natural language. I.e., the basic natural language conceptualization and categorization of causal events is analyzed in terms of the fundamental causal schemas empirically discovered by Michotte (launching vs. entraining), and the categorization of cognitively higher-level instances of the resultative construction, such as causation in the action domain or psychological domain, is analyzed as metaphorical projection from the prototype of physical causation and its subtypes as postulated by Michotte.

The causal alternatives ‘carry vs. push’ (i.e., prototypical launching vs. entraining in human causation) are considered as connected with two psychological models of action, which are determined by two main strategies of how to perform the action: on one’s own or not. The peculiarity of human causal action is that if the action is performed not by the subject, the latter’s intentions are such that the action should be performed by an object as if done by the subject itself (cf. Gibbs 2003). This influences the character of causal conceptualization, namely: metaphorical projection of the subject’s movement onto the object’s movement (cf. also Lakoff & Johnson 1999), pushing as indirect carrying metaphor, composition of the derived causal structures on the basis of the operation of blending (Fauconnier & Turner 1996), etc.

The causal categorization is performed in terms of the two-stage hierarchical structure of the causal prototype (carry - push). The features of performing the action to the end in the carrying case, and of initial influence in the case of pushing, with their image schematization on the basis of gestalts of common and separate fates, lead to the semantic structuring of carrying as resultative meaning (i.e. definitely implying the reaching of the final point by the subject and the object), and pushing as instrumental meaning (i.e. definitely expressing only the subject’s actions as means). Thus the derived causal meanings appear to have a metaphorical structure, and metaphorization turns out to be an effective means of conceptualization, categorization and linguistic coding of causal meanings in natural language.