View table of contents for this book View table of contents for LinguaLinksLibrary Go to LinguaLinks home page
 

What is valency?

 

Definition
 

Valency refers to the capacity of a verb to take a specific number and type of arguments (noun phrase positions).

Discussion
 

The terminology comes from chemistry, in which the valency of a chemical element is its capacity for combining with a fixed number of atoms of another element—for example, hydrogen can bond with only one other element, and is called monovalent.

 

Verbs can be divided into classes based on their valency (how many arguments or ‘valents’ they can take). In some languages, these classes may have distinctive morphosyntactic characteristics, such as unique case marking patterns, or restrictions on tense/aspect/modality marking.

Examples
 

Here are some examples of possible verb classes based on valency:

 

Verb class

# of arguments

Example (English)

Univalent, agentive

1 agent

dance

Univalent, patientive

1 patient

die

Divalent (or Bivalent)

2

kill, eat

Trivalent

3

give, put

See also
 
Source
 

Brown & Miller 1996 359


Context for this page:

Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 5 January 2004

© 2004 SIL International