constructional profiles as the basis of semantic analysis suzanne kemmer rice university...

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Constructional Profiles as the Basis of Semantic Analysis Suzanne Kemmer Rice University Slide 2 Introduction Construction Grammar defines constructions as linguistic units that necessarily have some non- compositional semantics Constructions have some aspect of meaning that is not reducible to (or predictable from) its component parts (or other constructions) And, constructions are argued to be necessary as a construct in any theory of grammar. Slide 3 Why do we need constructions? One argument for the indispensability of constructions in grammatical analysis comes from Coercion Effects (Michaelis 2002) Slide 4 Constructions and Coercion Constructions explain how certain expected semantic anomalies do not materialize. Give me some pillow! Elements in some sentences are expected to clash by virtue of their incompatible semantics, based on their distribution outside the construction. Slide 5 Constructions override lexical meaning Constructions fill in semantic substance and overcome semantic incompatibility of component parts through override I slept my way across the Atlantic. Sleep -- lack of motion specification Sentence as a whole -- describes motion with concomitant sleeping pit the cherries, dust the furniture, bone the filet conventionalized semantic elements added: motion, directionality Slide 6 Investigating constructional semantics We can investigate the semantics of constructions in various ways. Most relevant here: 1. Observation of distributional properties at sentence level; contrasts Syntactic properties are diagnostics or clues to semantics (as per assumption of close nature of the syntax-semantics relation of CL) via acceptability patterns in arrays of minimally contrasting examples. Semantics can be investigated by observing lexical items in mainly clause level contexts and observing anomalies and compatibilities that make such utterances less or more acceptable. Lakoff (1987) and Langacker (1987, 1991) inter alia analyze constructions (also lexical items) using this methodology. 2. Observation of distributions of recurring elements in a construction in large samples of language use Slide 7 We should employ any methodologies that prove useful Ideal: convergence of multiple sources of evidence gathered via different methodologies Second method gives insight into some semantic properties otherwise inaccessible (on assumption that frequency is a reflection of degree of entrenchment, which is itself a part of the system). Investigating constructional semantics Slide 8 What else can we get? Observing constructions also contributes to an understanding of the important mechanism of coercion How does it work? How and to what extent can it forestall anomaly? Slide 9 Who uses corpora? Who uses large corpora for the cognitive semantic analysis of constructions? Consider: British, Scandinavian, and American schools: Sinclair, Stubbs, Stig Johanson, Hunston and Francis, Biber. Corpora yes, cognitive semantic analysis of constructions, no or minimal Construction Grammarians: Fillmore, Kay, Michaelis, Croft, Goldberg, and their students Corpora, no or not primarily; semantic analysis is largely done by the first method above Corpus-construction grammarians: Boas, Fried, Gries, Lambrecht, Michaelis, stman, Stefanowitsch, and students. Corpora yes, cognitive semantic analyses, yes Corpus-cognitive linguists: Barlow, Geeraerts, Kemmer, Verhagen and students Corpora yes, cognitive semantic analysis yes Slide 10 Results and ongoing research The Corpus-CG and Corpus-CL groups have in common: Bottom-up analyses of particular constructions. Visual inspection for patterns via keywords in context and sorting; typically statistical data Analysis of constructional semantics, identification of theoretical issues in CL/CG Inclusion of units at varying levels of specificity See: Rohde 2001; Boas 2002, Gries and Stefanowitsch 2002; Stefanowitsch and Gries 2003, Fried 2004; studies appearing in Achard and Kemmer 2004 and Oestman and Fried 2005; Hilpert (to appear a, to appear b); Taylor (to appear) Slide 11 Diachrony Several diachronic studies in Cognitive Linguistics and, more recently,Construction Grammar, using corpora Carey 1994, Israel 1995, Ziegler 2002, Diewald, Gilquain 2004, Kemmer and Hilpert (forthcoming) Slide 12 Two perspectives Focus on individual lexemes many analyses of 1980s and 1990s; still current polysemy networks containing linked senses of prepositions, cases, etc. Kemmer (1993) added links to conceptually neighboring concepts in a multidimensional semantic/conceptual space (constructions not foregrounded) Focus on the construction as the unit of observation Integration of lexical semantic information with constructional specifications Slide 13 Item-based vs. construction-based Lexical perspective continues a venerable tradition of focus on words Words (more precisely: lexical roots) are certainly salient cognitive units Speakers access word meaning much more easily than meaning of linguistic units of other sizes or greater schematicity sublexical morphemes, constructions, sentences BUT: there are some very good reasons for the switch to viewing linguistic knowledge from a constructional perspective. Slide 14 Motivating the constructional view Traditional polysemy networks, although focusing on lexical items, actually require observation of lexemes in larger chunks of language Linked senses are structured by relative closeness of senses as determined by the closeness of the relations of the contextualized examples (representing types of uses) The standard methodology for distinguishing word senses is to posit different linguistic contexts in which the senses become clearly disambiguated Example: the ring on my finger vs. he was knocked right out of the ring the desired sense is the only one compatible with the surrounding material. Thus: Distribution of lexical items in larger structures is how we can tell the range of senses/uses of a lexical item Slide 15 Senses often correlate with constructions For relational units, the various senses of a given lexical unit are actually associated with constructions. Static vs. dynamic senses of the English prepositions are parts of constructions that express static and dynamic spatial senses over (the hill) : hovered over the hill, flew over the hill Prep NP : V-static over NP, V-motion over NP Senses of verbs are in most cases correlated with different constructions (e.g. roll (tr., caused motion) vs. roll (intr., autonomous motion) Following Goldberg (1995), Construction Grammarians reject positing extra verb senses an extra sense for sneeze in she sneezed the napkin off the table seems absurd Slide 16 Bidirectional links But Langacker (2003) points out: there are many verbs that have a strong associative link to a particular construction. give is extremely frequent in the ditransitive compared to other verbs The ditransitive construction is extremely frequent with give. The usage-based model predicts, based on frequency, that there is a highly conventionalized link to the ditransitive that is part of our knowledge of give. If so, give is an access point to the ditransitive construction and its associated frame Hypothesis: The links between lexical item and constructions reach in both directions We posit both nodes as units if both are conventionalized. Give may activate the ditransitive just as the construction primes the word. Slide 17 The usage-based model In the usage-based model, links in a linguistic knowledge network are viewed as activation pathways with potentially bidirectional activation flows (cf. Lamb 2000) Predicts that strongly entrenched links could potentially go in either direction. Converges with findings from neurology suggesting that links between neurons and between cortical columns have physically distinct pathways that can have differential activation strength. Slide 18 Predictions Viewing the links as potentially bidirectional makes some predictions: It should be possible for there to be dissociation between the relative strengths of an activation path directed from a lexical item to a construction, and another in the opposite direction. Evidence from distributional studies show that some individual verbs occur very frequently in a particular construction, like wriggle in the way construction (the baby wriggled its way out of the playpen) and not at all often, relatively speaking, outside the construction. Other examples in Gries and Stefanowitsch 2005. Slide 19 The usage-based model Conversely, a verb like make occurs frequently in the construction, but only as a function of its high overall frequency. Thus, affinity to the way construction not as tight Prediction: wriggle should have a stronger priming effect on the construction than make. Psycholinguistic evidence: Goldberg 2004 for give and ditransitive Still, the way construction does have a strong link to make. Prediction: The construction allows a wide range of verbs, but given no special semantic properties the speaker desires to convey, the speaker is likely to choose make over other possibilities because s/he has a great deal of experience of that choice, which effectively increases, by repeated memory, the likelihood of activation of make --unless there is some overriding reason to make another choice (desire to express manner of motion, for example). I think of this as long-term priming. Slide 20 More on preference for constructions : Constructions and events Argument structure constructions are used to form more event-sized conceptualizations than single words. Such constructions are likely to be rather crucial units relied on by speakers to make an intial chunking of reality into a manageable and manipulable portion of conceptual structure, as suggested by Talmy 2000. If this is true, then starting from the construction and investigating it with regard to what sm


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