PhD defence Imke Kruitwagen: Reciprocal verbs and their differences in meaning

Vechtende bizons. Foto: Uriel Soberanes, via Unsplash

On Wednesday 5 June, Imke Kruitwagen will defend her PhD dissertation ‘Lexical Reciprocal Verbs: A Typicality Approach’, in which she answers questions about differences in meaning in reciprocal verbs. She discusses the verb ‘to fight’ as an example. 

Differences in meaning of ‘to fight’

In her dissertation, Kruitwagen asks herself two questions: if it is true that Alex and Bobby are fighting, does that imply that it is also true that Alex fights Bobby and Bobby fights Alex? And what is the difference in meaning between ‘Alex and Bobby are fighting’ and ‘Alex fights with Bobby’?

Kruitwagen demonstrates that in the sentence ‘Alex and Bobby are fighting’, it does not necessarily have to be true that Bobby is fighting Alex. Thus, Alex and Bobby do not have to show ‘symmetric participation’. In the sentence ‘Alex fights with Bobby’, Bobby can be less active than Alex. This means that the degree to which Bobby carries out the activity of the verb, in this case ‘fighting’, is lower for Bobby than for Alex.

Conceptual meaning

This dissertation shows that the meaning of reciprocal verbs cannot be explained by standard logical notions such as ‘symmetry’, but the conceptual content of the verb and sensitivity to typicality effects must be considered.

Through this study, Kruitwagen learned more about the interaction between the structure of a sentence and the conceptual meaning of a reciprocal verb.

Start date and time
End date and time
Hybrid: online (click here) and at the Utrecht University Hall
PhD candidate
I. Kruitwagen
Lexical Reciprocal Verbs: A Typicality Approach
PhD supervisor(s)
Professor Y.S. Vinter Seggev
Dr J. Zwarts