Ruled by construal? Framing article choice in English

Laurence Romain*, Dagmar Hanzlikova, Petar Milin, Dagmar Divjak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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In cognitive linguistics, grammatical structure is known to be representative of meaning. This is also true of English articles. In this paper, we argue that the choice of article, when the grammar allows it, is dependent on the wider discourse context and most importantly on how the speaker construes this context. Using survey data from 181 native speakers of English, we show that the choice of article depends on the activation of semantic frames and how speakers may choose to highlight different elements of a frame to construe the situation differently. We rely on Entropy to measure the restrictiveness of a context and to identify particular contexts in which choice is allowed or inhibited. We find that some contextual features such as the specificity of the referent are more restrictive while Hearer Knowledge is more open to construal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
JournalConstructions and Frames
Issue number1
Early online date4 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024

Bibliographical note

The work reported on in this manuscript was funded by Leverhulme Trust Leadership Grant RL-016001 to Dagmar Divjak which funded all authors. Special thanks go to Marianne Hundt for reading a draft of this paper and providing relevant feedback. We would also like to thank the audiences to which we presented this research (Grammar and Corpora, Ghent 2022) and the three anonymous journal reviewers for their very helpful comments.


  • Articles
  • construal
  • survey data
  • reference
  • usage-based


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