Liane Ströbel

Sensorimotor-based Concepts in Agglutinative Languages

The use of sensorimotor-based concepts in empty verb constructions is neither restricted to a certain language nor do the predominant constructions have to correspond in different languages (e.g. the equivalents of have in English, French, Italian, German, the equivalents of hold in Spanish and Portuguese, and the equivalents of make/do in many Asian and African languages).

In Japanese, the high amount of originally Chinese vocabulary, and in Turkish, the high percentage of words coming from Persian or European languages led to a rise of empty verb constructions (based on sensorimotor-based concepts) with ‘make/do’. The examples illustrate the ongoing productivity of this functional domain:

doraibu suru

drive make  ‘to drive’

fukushû suru

revenge make ‘take revenge’

eikyô suru

 influence make ‘have influence’

gekido suru

anger/rage make ‘be enraged/angry’

keikén suru

experience make ‘have experience’

shínbô suru

patience make ‘have patience’

Similar in Turkish:

telefon etmek

phone make ‘phone’

kontrol etmek

 control make ‘control’

dans etmek

dance make ‘dance’

arzu etmek

wish make ‘make a wish’

dikkat etmek

care make ‘take care’

In Japanese and Turkish the distinction between ‘be’ and ‘have’ is still fluid, e.g. iruいる ‘be’ vs. aruある ‘have’; imek (-dir) ‘be/stay’ vs. var ‘have’.

The functional domains of ‘be’ and ‘have’ overlap especially in these cases in which the aim of the utterance is to state the existence of something or somebody.

Boku wa kodomo ga aru.

I-masc subjm children objm have vs.
Boku wa kodomo ga iru. I-masc subjm children objm be

‘I have children’


Kare wa watakushi no hon o motte iru. (Kuno 1988: 87f.)

he subjm I gen book acc hand be/exist

Kare wa watakushi no hon ga aru

he subjm I gen book objm have/exist

‘He has my book’ (Kuno 1988: 87f.)


Bende köpek var.

I dog have vs.

Köpek benim
dog I-be-dat

‘I have a dog’ (Cimilli and Liebe-Harkort 1976: 42)