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Widening the scope: Recent trends in constructional contact linguistics

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Article
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This article discusses the role of intra-word phonological schematicity in multilingual con-structicons from a Diasystematic Construction Grammar perspective. It argues that, in particular with communities that use two or more typologically similar and/or closely related languages, many lexical elements (e.g. cognates) exhibit regular sound correspondences that can be analysed as consisting of different types of phonological schemas. In this view, there is a division of labour between schematic constructions that specify the words' referential meaning and others that specify their belonging to one of the 'languages', with language-specificity defined as a pragmatic property of constructions. The focus is on the question whether generalizations at this level of schematicity and abstraction are cognitively real and what can count as evidence for their existence from a usage-based perspective.
Chapter
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Mainstream grammatical theory and traditional grammaticography concentrate on single languages or varieties, which are conceptualised as pre-existing, distinct entities and analysed in terms of coherent, static, ideally variation-free language systems. This is in stark contrast to actual language usage, where various kinds of structural contact phenomena are the rule rather than the exception. In line with recent insights from contact linguistics, Diasystematic Construction Grammar assumes that multilingual speakers and communities organise their grammatical knowledge on the basis of the available input via processes of interlingual identification, abstraction, generalisation, and categorisation, regardless of language boundaries. This results in a community-specific multilingual constructicon, comprising both language-specific constructions (restricted to certain communicative contexts associated with a particular language) and constructions unspecified for language.
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The separation or ‘debonding’ of prefixoids in informal language use in Germanic and the question whether spelling reflects re-categorization of such compound members as adjectives have recently been attracting increased attention among linguists. This contribution focuses on category changes involving lexical items with an evaluative function, both bound (prefixoids, loan prefixes) and unbound (bare nouns), that give rise to defective adjectives in German, Dutch and Swedish. This occurs via two loci of change: the non-head position in nominal and adjectival compounds and the predicative position in sentence constructions. The diverse items serving as ‘evaluatives’ are unified by one abstract schema for ‘evaluative compounds’ across these languages which is paradigmatically related to other, free uses of such items.
Chapter
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This chapter argues against a view according to which pragmatics, as opposed to semantics, is completely outside grammar. It suggests that, on the contrary, speakers strongly associate various pragmatic aspects of information with constructions. I here give an overview of a wide range of pragmatic phenomena as they have been dealt with in Construction Grammar, a linguistic framework which, as a matter of principle, accommodates pragmatic information in the description of stored form-function units. Such information includes Gricean maxims, information structure, illocutionary force and larger discourse structure. However, Construction Grammarians have been rather vague on what kind of (presumably) pragmatic data should and should not be included in a construction and whether or not, within a given construction, pragmatics and semantics constitute separate layers of information. I demonstrate a heuristic based on cross-linguistic or intra-linguistic comparison of functionally similar constructions (e.g. Can you…? and Are you able to…?) to decide whether we should explicitly specify ‘short-circuited’ usage information (e.g. the request use of Can you…?) that could in principle be obtained purely on the basis of sound reasoning. I also propose that semantics and pragmatics should be treated as distinct levels of functional information in constructions.
Book
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Construction Grammar as a framework offers a new perspective on traditional historical questions in diachronic linguistics and language change: how do new constructions arise, how should competition in diachronic variation be accounted for, how do constructions fall into disuse, and how do constructions change in general, formally and/or semantically, and with what implications for the language system as a whole? This volume offers a broad introduction to the confluence of Construction Grammar and historical syntax, and also detailed case studies of various instances of syntactic change modeled within Construction Grammar. The volume demonstrates that Construction Grammar as a theory is particularly well suited for modeling historical changes in morphosyntax, and it also documents challenging new phenomena that require a theoretical account within any competing framework of syntactic change.
Article
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Languages are subject to change, but they are also stable. The linguistic knowledge of the members of speech communities is similar, but also differs in many ways. Language use affects individual linguistic knowledge and contributes to linguistic conventionality. The present paper outlines a model of how language works that strives to do justice to these commonsensical observations. The model consists of cognitive processes and social processes and shows how these interact under the influence of usage events and a range of different types of forces.
Chapter
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Language contact phenomena are often described with reference to their effect on the monolingual systems of the varieties involved, both in historical and in contact linguistics. This contribution argues that an essentially multilingual perspective on these phenomena is more adequate. Bilingual speakers in stable bilingual groups create a common system for all their languages, incorporating both interlingual links and language -unspecified elements along with language-specific structures. In a construction grammar analysis, such systems as well as changes within this type of system can be conceptualised as interlingual constructional networks, which are established, stored, and processed in exactly the same way as monolingual grammars.
Chapter
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From a global and historical perspective, multilingualism or at least multilectalism is the rule rather than the exception. However, linguistic theory continues to focus on the idea of a prototypically coherent, static, and monolingual language system. A more realistic approach can set out from the notion of ‘diasystems’, i.e. linguistic systems including more than one variety. Apart from being theoretical constructs, diasystems are also an important component of multilectal speakers’ linguistic knowledge. Within a usage-based construction grammar approach, this paper argues that multilectal speakers (re-)organise their grammars by generalisation over individual constructions and across language boundaries. Therefore, the multilectal system can be modelled as an inventory of constructions that are partly language-specific and partly unspecified for language.
Article
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In research on bilingualism it is often assumed that linguistic structures can be shared across languages. The emphasis on generalization and categorization in construction grammar also seems to imply that speakers can develop cross-linguistic representations. This contribution argues that generalizations can occur only on the semantic level. Data from typologically distinct languages shows that generalizations over form are not likely to play a role in language processing. It is further argued that neither syntactical nor grammatical form is needed in order to explain syntactic transfer.
Article
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Usage-based CxG approaches share the central assumption that any grammar has to be acquired and organised through input-based abstraction and categorisation. Diasystematic Construction Grammar (DCxG) is based on the idea that these processes are not sensitive to language boundaries. Multilingual input thus results in multilingual grammars which are conceived of as constructicons containing language-specific as well as language-unspecific constructions. Within such systems, phonological structures play an important part in the identification of schematic constructions. However, the status of phonology in DCxG, as in CxG in general, yet remains unclear. This paper presents some arguments for including phonological elements systematically in the construction-based analysis of (multilingual) constructional systems.
Chapter
This paper brings a contact linguistic perspective to the investigation of variation and change in the semantic structures of schematic argument structure constructions, i.e. diachronic constructional semasiology. The empirical focus is on three clusters of ongoing change in the lexical and semantic possibilities of three-argument constructions in Afrikaans that can plausibly be related to interlingual identification with formally and functionally similar English argument structure constructions. The main theoretical argument is that the concept of distributional assimilation as introduced by Gast & van der Auwera (2012) can be fruitfully extended to constructional semantics.
Article
Aims and objectives/purpose/research question We propose a model that captures general patterns in bilingual language processing, based on empirical evidence elicited in a variety of experimental studies. We begin by considering what linguistic outputs are logically possible when bilingual speakers communicate based on the typological features of two languages in the bilingual mind. Our aim is to explain why some outputs are more frequent or more likely than others in bilingual language use. Design/methodology/approach Our empirically derived multi-factor model combines insights from various empirical studies of different bilingual populations and it includes a variety of methodologies and approaches, such as lexical categorisation, lexical priming, syntactic priming, event verbalisation and memory, historical language change, grammaticality judgments and observational reports. Data and analysis We critically discuss both lexical and syntactic processing data, as well as data that reflect bilingual type differences and different communicative situations (i.e. who the bilingual speakers are talking to and for what purpose). Crucially, we explain when the relevant factors collaborate and when they compete. Originality There are three main reasons why this paper can be deemed original: 1) it offers a unified model for understanding bilingual language processing that is not focused on a single factor or a single linguistic level, as has most often been the case in the past; 2) it brings together the study of bilingualism from both psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives and in a unifying fashion, which is rare in the literature; and 3) it creates a platform for testing numerous predictions that are not dependent on any one theory. Significance/implications This new model opens up new avenues for research into bilingual language processing for all types of bilingual speakers and in different communicative situations. It captures and explains the variety of outputs in bilingual communication and enables us to make predictions about communicative outcomes.
Book
Grammaticalization research has increasingly highlighted the notion of constructions in the last decade. In the wake of this heightened interest, efforts have been made in grammaticalization research to more precisely articulate the largely pretheoretical notion of construction in the theoretical framework of construction grammar. As such, grammaticalization research increasingly interacts and converges with the emerging field of diachronic construction grammar. This volume brings together articles that are situated at the intersection of grammaticalization research and diachronic construction grammar. All articles share an interest in integrating insights from grammaticalization research and construction grammar in order to advance our understanding of empirical cases of grammaticalization. Constructions at various levels of abstractness are investigated, both in well-documented languages, such as Ancient Greek, Latin, Spanish, German, Norwegian and English, and in less-described languages, such as Manchu and Mongolian.
Article
The construction Beste boek ooit (‘Best book ever!’) comes in different forms in Dutch. Variation is not only attested in the absence or presence of determiners and postmodifiers, but also in code choice: English, Dutch and hybrid (Beste boek ever!) variants occur. This article investigates differentiation between instances with ooit and instances with ever. To ensure sufficient signal, we adopt a bird's eye perspective, analyzing over 100,000 observations from a Twitter corpus from the Low Countries (period 2011–2016). Our results reveal that (1) the two constructional variants increase in frequency in the time period under study, (2) this increase is more pronounced for the ooit-variant; (3) the ever-variant undergoes specialization towards a pragmatically marked form. Overall, our account complements anglicism research (Andersen 2014) in four ways. First, we foreground constructional borrowing instead of single-word borrowing. Second, in working with Twitter data, we break with the tradition of print media corpora. Third, we explore NLP based methods for large datasets sampled from big data collections in a field of research that has mainly relied on manual coding of small-scale datasets. Finally, we illustrate how matter and pattern replication can go hand in hand in contact-induced change.
Article
While recent years have seen an increased interest for the potential effects of language contact on the formal and/or semantic properties of constructions, existing case studies of (potentially) contact-induced change in individual constructions (e.g. Pietsch 2010; Höder 2012, 2014; Van de Velde and Zenner 2010; Colleman and Noël 2014, etc.) have so far made little impact on the booming field of diachronic construction grammar at large, i.e. they have stayed largely under the radar of constructionist theorizing about language change. The present paper reflects on the theoretical significance of a recent innovation in Dutch, viz. the emergence of an argument structure construction that mirrors the form and semantics of the English ‘time’- away construction first described in Jacken-doff (1997). While it is fairly uncontroversial that English influence has something to do with this innovation, it is by no means easy to determine exactly what has happened. Even though an alternative scenario, in which the new Dutch pattern developed out of pre-existing Dutch pattern featuring weg ‘away’, cannot be ruled out, I will argue that one plausible way of accounting for the observed facts is to assume that a ready-made English form-meaning unit was copied into Dutch. On this view, the observed change would count as an instance of instantaneous grammatical constructionalization.
Book
This volume provides a much-needed, critical overview of the field of constructions and construction grammar in the context of Singapore English, and poses the question of identifying a construction in contact when the lexicon is derived from one language and the syntax from another. Case studies are illustrated in which the possibility of a 'merger'-construction is offered to resolve such problems. The book is intended for students of construction theories, variation studies, or any researcher of contact grammars.
Article
Martin Hilpert combines construction grammar and advanced corpus-based methodology into a new way of studying language change. Constructions are generalizations over remembered exemplars of language use. These exemplars are stored with all their formal and functional properties, yielding constructional generalizations that contain many parameters of variation. Over time, as patterns of language use are changing, the generalizations are changing with them. This book illustrates the workings of constructional change with three corpus-based studies that reveal patterns of change at several levels of linguistic structure, ranging from allomorphy to word formation and to syntax. Taken together, the results strongly motivate the use of construction grammar in research on diachronic language change. This new perspective has wide-ranging consequences for the way historical linguists think about language change. it will be of particular interest to linguists working on morpho-syntax, sociolinguistics and corpus linguistics.
Article
Written by an expert in the field, this study examines the dynamics of contact between languages in an immigrant context. Michael Clyne discusses the dynamics of contact with English using data from a wide range of languages, including German, Dutch, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish, Croatian and Vietnamese. Clyne analyzes how and why these languages change in a country with many immigrants such as Australia, as well as why some languages survive longer than others.
Article
In this paper, we take a Construction Grammar approach to Du Bois' concept of resonance activation. We suggest that the structural mapping relations between juxtaposed utterances in discourse, described in terms of diagraphs in dialogic syntax, can acquire the status of ad hoc constructions or locally entrenched form-meaning pairings within the boundaries of an ongoing conversation. We argue that the local emergence of these ad hoc constructions involves the same cognitive mechanism described for the abstraction of conventional grammatical constructions from usage patterns. Accordingly, we propose to broaden the scope of Construction Grammar to include not only symbolic units that are conventionalized in a larger speech community, but also a dimension of online syntax, i.e. the emergence of grammatical patterns at the micro-level of a single conversation. Drawing on dialogic data from political talk shows and parliamentary debates, we illustrate the spectrum of these ad hoc constructional routines and show their local productivity, which we take as an indication of their (micro-)entrenchment within a given conversation.
Book
This book investigates the nature of generalizations in language, drawing parallels between our linguistic knowledge and more general conceptual knowledge. The book combines theoretical, corpus, and experimental methodology to provide a constructionist account of how linguistic generalizations are learned, and how cross-linguistic and language-internal generalizations can be explained. Part I argues that broad generalizations involve the surface forms in language, and that much of our knowledge of language consists of a delicate balance of specific items and generalizations over those items. Part II addresses issues surrounding how and why generalizations are learned and how they are constrained. Part III demonstrates how independently needed pragmatic and cognitive processes can account for language-internal and cross-linguistic generalizations, without appeal to stipulations that are specific to language.
Book
Elizabeth Closs Traugott and Graeme Trousdale develop an approach to language change based on construction grammar. Construction grammar is a theory of signs construed at the level of the phrase, clause, and complex sentence. Until now it has been mainly synchronic. The authors use it to reconceptualize grammaticalization (the process by which verbs like to have lose semantic content and gain grammatical functions, or word order moves from discourse-prominent to syntax-prominent), and lexicalization (in which idioms become fixed and complex words simplified). Basing their argument on the notions that language is made up of language-specific form-meaning pairings and that there is a gradient between lexical and grammatical constructions, Professor Traugott and Dr Trousdale suggest that language change proceeds by micro-steps that involve closely related changes in syntax, morphology, phonology, semantics, pragmatics, and discourse functions. They illustrate their exposition with numerous English examples drawn from Anglo-Saxon times to the present, many of which they discuss in depth. The book is organized in six chapters. The first outlines the approach and the questions to be addressed. The second reviews usage-based models of language change. The third considers the relation between grammatical constructionalization and grammaticalization. Chapters 4 and 5 focus respectively on lexical constructionalization and the role of context. The final chapter draws the authors' arguments together and outlines prospects for further research. Constructionalization and Constructional Changes propounds and demonstrates a new and productive approach to historical linguistics.
Article
This paper sketches a comprehensive framework for modeling and interpreting language contact phenomena, with speakers’ bilingual strategies in specific scenarios of language contact as its point of departure. Bilingual strategies are conditioned by social factors, processing constraints of speakers’ bilingual competence, and perceived language distance. In a number of domains of language contact studies important progress has been made, including Creole studies, code-switching, language development, linguistic borrowing, and areal convergence. Less attention has been paid to the links between these fields, so that results in one domain can be compared with those in another. These links are approached here from the perspective of speaker optimization strategies. Four strategies are proposed: maximize structural coherence of the first language (L1); maximize structural coherence of the second language (L2); match between L1 and L2 patterns where possible; and rely on universal principles of language processing. These strategies can be invoked to explain outcomes of language contact. Different outcomes correspond to different interactions of these strategies in bilingual speakers and their communities.
Article
Most societies in today's world are multilingual. ‘Language contact’ occurs when speakers of different languages interact and their languages influence each other. This book is an introduction to the subject, covering individual and societal multilingualism, the acquisition of two or more languages from birth, second language acquisition in adulthood, language change, linguistic typology, language processing and the structure of the language faculty. It explains the effects of multilingualism on society and language policy, as well as the consequences that long-term bilingualism within communities can have for the structure of languages. Drawing on the author's own first-hand observations of child and adult bilingualism, the book provides a clear analysis of such phenomena as language convergence, grammatical borrowing, and mixed languages.
Reconceptualizing language contact phenomena as cognitive processes
  • A Onysko
Onysko, A. (2019). Reconceptualizing language contact phenomena as cognitive processes. In E. Zenner, A. Backus, & E. Winter-Froemel (Eds.), Cognitive contact linguistics (pp. 23-50). Berlin: de Gruyter.
  • Sommerer
  • Boas
Distributional assimilation in constructional semantics. On contact-related semantic shifts in Afrikaans three-argument constructions
  • Colleman
  • Hilpert
  • Coussé
  • Barðdal
  • De Knop
  • Zenner
Applied Construction Grammar
De Knop, S., & Gilquin, G. (Eds.). (2016). Applied Construction Grammar. Berlin: de Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110458268
Simplicity and complexity in creoles and pidgins
  • N Faraclas
  • T B Klein
Faraclas, N., & Klein, T. B. (2009). Simplicity and complexity in creoles and pidgins. Battlebridge.
Constructions across grammars. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins
  • M Hilpert
  • Östman
Hilpert, M., & Östman, J.-O. (Eds.). (2016). Constructions across grammars. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: Benjamins. https://doi.org/10.1075/bct.82
Entrenchment and the psychology of language learning. How we reorganize and adapt linguistic knowledge
  • H.-J Schmid
Schmid, H.-J. (2017). A framework for understanding linguistic entrenchment and its psychological foundations. In H.-J. Schmid (Ed.), Entrenchment and the psychology of language learning. How we reorganize and adapt linguistic knowledge (pp. 9-35). Washington: De Gruyter Mouton/American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/15969-002