The Verb Mutability Effecte: Noun and Verb Semantics in English and Japanese

caitlin fausey, Hanako Yoshida, Jennifer Asmuth, Dedre Gentner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


To what extent are the processing patterns for nouns and verbs universal across languages? Under conditions of semantic strain, English speakers tend to adapt the meaning of the verb to fit the noun in the sentence. We asked Japanese and English speakers to paraphrase simple sentences of the form “The noun verbed,” varying in semantic strain (e.g., “The blender talked”). We then assessed the degree to which speakers adjusted the default word meanings in their paraphrases by asking a new group of speakers to read the paraphrases and to guess (“retrace”) which word had occurred in the original sentence. As predicted, English speakers retraced more nouns than verbs, suggesting that verb meanings were adjusted to a greater degree than noun meanings in the paraphrases. However, the results for Japanese speakers did not differ between nouns and verbs. We discuss implications for the universality of a noun−verb mutability difference.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 28th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsRon Sun, Naomi Miyake
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)978-0-9768318-2-2
StatePublished - 2006

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