Binding scale dynamics: fact or fiction?

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This paper contributes to current debates in linguistic theory and methodology by focusing on discreteness versus continuity in linguistic description as well as on the importance of structure versus use for understanding mental representations of language phenomena. It does so through a case study on the Polish [finite verb + infinitive] construction, henceforth [Vfin Vinf]. Within a Cognitive Linguistic framework, Divjak (2007) proposed a structurally underpinned Binding Scale encompassing eight levels of looser to tighter integration, with verbs expressing modality, intention, attempt, result and phase representing the most integrated type of [Vfin Vinf] constructions. Cognitive Linguistics aims to give a usage-based account of the complex system that language is, grounded in general cognitive principles. But at which level of abstraction should we pitch the
linguistic description of a system such as the [Vfin Vinf] system to find such motivating principles at work? In this paper, I assess the distance between usage and structure by investigating whether the proposed Binding Scale can be reliably distinguished in judgments of usage events through statistical unsupervised learning. By experimenting with the type of abstraction that needs to be imposed on acceptability ratings to arrive at a meaningful classification, conclusions can be drawn about the social or mental nature of this structure.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAspects of Linguistic Variation
EditorsDaniel Van Olmen, Tanja Mortelmans, Frank Brisard
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherDe Gruyter
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9783110607963, 9783110609875
ISBN (Print)9783110607956
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Publication series

NameTrends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs
PublisherDe Gruyter
ISSN (Electronic)2199-3734


  • structure
  • use
  • discreteness
  • continuity
  • cluster analysis
  • Polish
  • Binding Scale
  • complementation


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