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Buying and selling in Word Grammar

last revised 10 August 2007

Richard Hudson

Bibliographical information

I wrote this paper in January 2002 for publication in a book edited by József Andor and Péter Pelyvás with the tentative title "Empirical, Cognitive-Based Studies In The Semantics-Pragmatics Interface", to be published in the series CRiSPI (Current Research in the Semantics/Pragmatics Interface) by the Elsevier Science in Oxford. However, in the event this publication never appeared. Instead, the paper is to appear in a collection of 'reprints' edited by Patrick Hanks, 'Critical Concepts in Lexicology' (Routledge). I have now replaced it by a completely new paper on the same topic, 'Commercial transactions revisited'.



The paper explores in some detail the semantics of the verbs which Fillmore classifies as 'commercial transaction' verbs: BUY, SELL, CHARGE, PAY, SPEND and COST. It shares Fillmore's belief that these meanings must be defined in terms of general semantic frames, but (like Lawler) it argues that more than one such frame is involved. In addition to the frame for Commercial transaction we need to invoke Trading, Consuming, Using, Giving and Getting, which interact to define the meanings of these verbs (and of course many others). The analysis is formalised in terms of Word Grammar theory, and assumes that each 'frame' is a concept represented as a node in a network of relations. The paper also considers the theoretical status of semantic relations (especially participant roles), and shows that these can be defined within the analysis through the network. One relation may be defined in terms of another either by being an example (in the 'isa' relation) of the other, or by sharing the same terms as the other.