Getting at the meaning of the English at-construction: the case of a constructional split

Florent Perek, Maarten Lemmens

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Abstract

On the basis of a corpus-based study of the at-frame in English, this article evaluates Goldberg’s (2006) hypothesis that constructional meaning originates with the meaning of the verbs frequently occurring in a given syntactic pattern. Our study reveals that for the at-construction, this hypothesis does not hold: the constructional meaning is poorly reflected by the distribution of the verbs, and is only arrived at by attending to specific aspects of the semantics of the verbs occurring in it. This suggests that a more complex learning strategy than the simple import of lexical semantics into constructions is needed, especially to account for the emergence of constructions whose meaning is not lexicalized
by any verb in the language.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCogniTextes
Volume5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • constructional synonymy
  • conative construction
  • constructional meaning
  • construction grammar

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