Productivity and argument sharing in Hindi light verb constructions

  • Ashwini Vaidya IIT Delhi
  • Eva Wittenberg University of California, San Diego


Light verb constructions (e.g. give a sigh, take a walk) are a linguistic puzzle, as they consist of two predicating elements in a monoclausal structure. In the theoretical linguistics literature, there has been much interest in the linguistic analysis of such constructions across a range of grammatical frameworks. One such proposal is event co-composition, where the argument structures of noun and light verb merge, resulting in a composite argument structure, which has been shown to incur processing cost in English and German. In contrast to these languages, a larger proportion of the predicates in Hindi are light verb constructions. Hence, we may ask whether a Hindi speaker’s experience with light verb constructions allow them to go through the same co-composition operation faster than a speaker of English. Our results show that Hindi speakers are adept at the process of using light verb constructions to verbalize predicates, much more so than speakers of Germanic languages. We argue that these data provide evidence for a case of specific linguistic experiences shaping cognition: cost disappears with practice.