WHAT IS CONSTRUCTION GRAMMAR (CxG)? It is a constraint-based, generative, non- derivational, mono-stratal grammatical model, committed to incorporating the cognitive and interactional foundations of language. It is also inherently tied to a particular model of the ‘semantics of understanding’, known as Frame Semantics, which offers a way of structuring and representing meaning while taking into account the relationship between lexical meaning and grammatical patterning.
Trademark Characteristic of CxG Language is a repertoire of more or less complex patterns – CONSTRUCTIONS – that integrate form and meaning in conventionalized and in some aspects non-compositional ways. Form in constructions may refer to any combination of syntactic, morphological, or prosodic patterns. Meaning is understood in a broad sense that includes lexical semantics, pragmatics, and discourse structure.
HISTORY The notion of construction grammar developed out of the ideas of "global rules" and "transderivational rules" in generative semantics, together with the generative semantic idea of a grammar as a constraint satisfaction system. CxG was spurred on by the development of Cognitive Semantics, beginning in 1975 and extending through the 1980s.
HISTORY George Lakoffs 1977 paper, Linguistic Gestalts (Chicago Linguistic Society, 1977) was an early version of CxG, arguing that the meaning of the whole was not a compositional function of the meaning of the parts put together locally. Instead, he suggested, constructions themselves must have meanings. CxG was developed in the 1980s by linguists such as Charles Fillmore, Paul Kay, and George Lakoff. CxG was developed in order to handle cases that intrinsically went beyond the capacity of generative grammar.
GRAMMATICAL CONSTRUCTION In CxG, the grammatical construction is a pairing of form and content. The formal aspect of a construction is typically described as a syntactic template, but the form covers more than just syntax, as it also involves phonological aspects, such as prosody and intonation. The content covers semantic as well as pragmatic meaning.
GRAMMATICAL CONSTRUCTION The form and content are symbolically linked in the sense advocated by Ronald Langacker. Thus a construction is treated like a sign in which all structural aspects are integrated parts and not distributed over different modules as they are in the componential model. Consequentially, not only constructions that are lexically fixed, like many idioms, but also more abstract ones like argument structure schemata, are pairings of form and conventionalized meaning. For instance, the ditransitive schema [S V IO DO] is said to express semantic content X CAUSES Y TO RECEIVE Z, just like kill means X CAUSES Y TO DIE.
SYNTAX-LEXICON CONTINUUM Unlike the componential model, CxG denies any strict distinction between the two and proposes a syntax-lexicon continuum. The argument goes that words and complex constructions are both pairs of form and meaning and differ only in internal symbolic complexity.
GRAMMAR AS AN INVENTORY OF CONSTRUCTIONSIn CxG the grammar of a language is made upof taxonomic networks of families of constructions,which are based on the same principles as those ofthe conceptual categories known from cognitivelinguistics, such as inheritance, prototypicality,extensions, and multiple parenting.
Four Models of Information Storage in the Taxonomies1. Full-entry model - In the full-entry model information is stored redundantly at all relevant levels in the taxonomy, which means that it operates, if at all, with minimal generalization.2. Usage-based model - The usage-based model is based on inductive learning, meaning that linguistic knowledge is acquired in a bottom-up manner through use. It allows for redundancy and generalizations, because the language user generalizes over recurring experiences of use.
Four Models of Information Storage in the Taxonomies3. Default inheritance model - According to this model, each network has a default central form-meaning pairing from which all instances inherit their features. It thus operates with a fairly high level of generalization, but does also allow for some redundancy in that it recognizes extensions of different types.4. Complete inheritance model - In this model, information is stored only once at the most super ordinate level of the network. Instances at all other levels inherit features from the super ordinate item. The complete inheritance does not allow for redundancy in the networks.
Shift Towards Usage-Based Model All four models are advocated by different construction grammarians, but since the late 1990s there has been a shift towards a general preference for the usage-based model. The shift towards the usage-based approach in CxG has inspired the development of several corpus-based methodologies of constructional analysis
SYNONYMY AND MONOTONY As CxG is based on schemas and taxonomies, it does not operate with dynamic rules of derivation. Rather, it is monotonic. Since CxG does not operate with surface derivations from underlying structures, it rejects constructional polysemy and adheres to functionalist linguist Dwight Bolingers principle of no synonymy, on which Adele Goldberg elaborates in her book. This means that construction grammarians argue, for instance, that active and passive versions of the same proposition are not derived from an underlying structure, but are instances of two different constructions. As constructions are pairings of form and meaning, active and passive versions of the same proposition are not synonymous, but display differences in content: in this case the pragmatic content.
CONSTRUCTION GRAMMARS CxG is a "family" of theories rather than one unified theory. There are a number of formalized CxG frameworks. Some of these are: BERKELEY CONSTRUCTION GRAMMAR It focuses on the formal aspects of constructions and makes use of a unification-based framework for description of syntax, unlike Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar. Some of its proponents/developers are Charles Fillmore, Paul Kay, Laura Michaelis, and to a certain extent Ivan Sag.
CONSTRUCTION GRAMMARS GOLDBERGIAN/LAKOVIAN CONSTRUCTION GRAMMAR The type of construction grammar associated with linguists like Goldberg and Lakoff looks mainly at the external relations of constructions and the structure of constructional networks. In terms of form and function, this type of construction grammar puts psychological plausibility as its highest desideratum. It emphasizes experimental results and parallels with general cognitive psychology. It also draws on certain principles of cognitive linguistics.
CONSTRUCTION GRAMMARSCOGNITIVE GRAMMAR Sometimes, Ronald Langackers Cognitive grammar framework is described as a type of construction grammar. Cognitive grammar deals mainly with the semantic content of constructions, and its central argument is that conceptual semantics is primary to the degree that form mirrors, or is motivated by content. Langacker argues that even abstract grammatical units like part-of-speech classes are semantically motivated and involve certain conceptualizations.
CONSTRUCTION GRAMMARS RADICAL CONSTRUCTION GRAMMAR William A. Crofts radical construction grammar is designed for typological purposes and takes into account cross-linguistic factors. It deals mainly with the internal structure of constructions. Radical Construction Grammar is totally non-reductionist, and Croft argues that constructions are not derived from their parts, but that the parts are derived from the constructions they appear in.
CONSTRUCTION GRAMMARS EMBODIED CONSTRUCTION GRAMMAR Embodied construction grammar (ECG) adopts the basic constructionist definition of a grammatical construction, but emphasizes the relation of constructional semantic content to embodiment and sensorimotor experiences. A central claim is that the content of all linguistic signs involve mental simulations and are ultimately dependent on basic image schemas of the kind advocated by Mark Johnson and George Lakoff and so ECG aligns itself with cognitive linguistics. Like Construction Grammar, ECG makes use of a unification-based model of representation. A non-technical introduction to the NTL theory behind ECG as well as the theory itself and a variety of applications can be found in Jerome Feldmans From Molecule to Metaphor: A Neural Theory of Language. Some of its proponents/developers are the Neural Theory of Language (NTL) group at ICSI, UC Berkeley, and the University of Hawaii, particularly including Benjamin Bergen and Nancy Chang.
CONSTRUCTION GRAMMARS FLUID CONSTRUCTION GRAMMAR Fluid construction grammar (FCG) was designed by Luc Steels for doing experiments on the origins and development of language. FCG is a fully operational and computationally implemented formalism for construction grammars and proposes a uniform mechanism for parsing and production. The Grammar integrates many notions from contemporary computational linguistics such as feature structures and unification-based language processing. Constructions are considered bidirectional and hence usable both for parsing and production. Processing is flexible in the sense that it can even cope with partially ungrammatical or incomplete sentences. FCG is called fluid because it acknowledges the premise that language users constantly change and update their grammars. The research on FCG is conducted at Sony CSL Paris and the AI Lab at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
CONSTRUCTION GRAMMARS Others... In addition there are several construction grammarians who operate within the general framework of CxG without affiliating themselves with any specific CxG program. There is a growing interest in the diachronic aspect of grammatical constructions and thus in the importation of methods and ideas from grammaticalization studies. Another area of growing interest is the pragmatics of pragmatic constructions. This is probably one of the reasons why the usage-based model is gaining popularity among construction grammarians. Another area of increasing interest among construction grammarians is that of language acquisition which is mainly due to Michael Tomasellos work.