Agency Drives Category Structure in Instrumental Events

AbstractThematic roles such as Agent and Instrument have a long-standing place in theories of event representation. Nonetheless, the structure of these categories has been difficult to determine. We investigated how instrumental events, such as someone slicing bread with a knife, are categorized in English. Speakers described a variety of typical and atypical instrumental events, and we determined the similarity structure of their descriptions using correspondence analysis. We found that events where the instrument is an extension of an intentional agent were most likely to elicit similar language, highlighting the importance of agency in structuring instrumental categories.


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