In a recent comment on the question Ergative Verbs and some discussion about them, jlawler introduced a term I had not previously encountered:

The rose smells good is completely different; this smell is a flip sense verb, with quite different syntax.

The term I've put in bold links to an answer to a question on our English Language sister site, “Taste” is to “flavor” as “touch” and “sight” are to what? Where John Lawler uses the term a few more times:

Two of the verb classes differ in whether they're volitional, and the other one is an experiential sense with special "Flip" syntax.
The third type is the Flip verbs: sound, look, smell, taste, feel.
Again the three chemical/kinesthetic senses don't change, though only feel works as a Flip verb:
The subject of a Flip verb is not the experiencer, but rather whatever is causing the sensation being experienced.

So I'm wondering if this is a term I ought to be familiar with. Some brief Googling hasn't turned up very much. Is it perhaps better known under another name, or only used by a single author? What is the provenance of this term? Where can I learn more about the concept named by this term?

I just noticed that of course jlawler and John Lawler must be the same person. I wonder how to get different usernames on two SE sister sites (-:

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    I've not encountered the term before. I have encountered the claim that such verbs are copula, though, although I disagree. I think such verbs indeed form a special class, and if there are established sources that call them "flip verbs", I might want to adopt the term into my usage. Jul 20, 2014 at 3:30
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    Also known as "psych predicates". They have perceiver/experiencer subjects, and either DOs or PPs expressing the source of the perception/experience. Frequently emotional, often adjectival, some formed from old past participles.
    – jlawler
    Jul 20, 2014 at 3:50
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    Correction. That's the description of emotional flip/psych predicates, like fear, afraid/scared/suspicious (of), amazed/surprised/aghast (at), etc. The flip sense verbs have subjects that refer to the stimulus and a complement that describes the effect; the perceiver is expressed optionally in a to clause -- if not expressed, the perceiver is understood to be the speaker. I.e, That looks/sounds/feels/smells/tastes funny (to me). These are called "flip" because they appear to invert the position of the arguments in I heard/saw/tasted/smelled/felt that.
    – jlawler
    Jul 20, 2014 at 15:10


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