Lexical and constructional organization of argument structure: a contrastive analysis

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Abstract. In this chapter I outline some principles for a contrastive analysis of basic clausal expressions in English and Spanish. They are formulated within a general framework of Cognitive Linguistics. The proposed principles for cross-linguistic variation are a challenge to the principles of parametric variation in syntax as envisioned in Chomsky (1981) and defended by Snyder (2001). From a theory-internal point of view, they lead to a reinterpretation of Talmy's descriptive typology of macro-events (Talmy 1991, 2000). Particularly, they solve a serious flaw in Talmy's typology due to his exclusive focus on lexicalization patterns. Contrastive analysis may provide insight into differing ways of organizing grammatical information. Construction grammar (CXG) suggests that clausal core information is organized by integrating at least two construction types: A) schematic constructions, B) lexical constructions (e.g. Croft 2001; Fillmore 1988; Goldberg 1995, 2006). In addition, clausal expressions are, according to some CXG-frameworks (e.g. Croft 2001), supposed to be built on language-specific construction types. I hypothesize that languages may differ according to the level of constructional specificity at which the core information is organized. English (and presumably other Germanic languages to some extent) tends to organize principal clausal information in schematic argument structure constructions, lea­ving secondary information for lexical (verbal) specification. Spanish (and presumably other Romance languages to some extent) seems to organize principal clausal information lexically in verbal argument structure constructions, leaving secondary information for schematically organized specification.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Language and Cognition
EditorsJordan Zlatev, Mats Andrén, Marlene Johansson Falck, Carita Lundmark
Number of pages16
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge Scholars Press
Publication date2009
ISBN (Print)1-4438-0174-7
Publication statusPublished - 2009

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Argument structure, Language typology, Construction grammar, Spanish language

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