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Journal Article

Grammatical Constructions and Linguistic Generalizations: The What's X Doing Y? Construction

Paul Kay and Charles J. Fillmore
Language
Vol. 75, No. 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 1-33
DOI: 10.2307/417472
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/417472
Page Count: 33
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Grammatical Constructions and Linguistic Generalizations: The What's X Doing Y? Construction
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Abstract

Our goal is to present, by means of the detailed analysis of a single grammatical problem, some of the principal commitments and mechanisms of a grammatical theory that assigns a central role to the notion of GRAMMATICAL CONSTRUCTION. To adopt a constructional approach is to undertake a commitment in principle to account for the entirety of each language. This means that the relatively general patterns of the language, such as the one licensing the ordering of a finite auxiliary verb before its subject in English, often known as SAI, and the highly idiomatic patterns, like kick the bucket, stand on an equal footing as data for which the grammar must account. An explicit grammar that covers the full range of constructions must represent all constructions, of whatever degree of generality or idiomaticity, in a common notation and must provide an explicit account of how each sentence of a language is licensed by a subset of the leaves of the inheritance hierarchy of constructions which constitutes the grammar of that language. Language-internal generalizations are captured by inheritance relations among constructions. Cross-language generalizations are captured by the architecture of the representation system and by the sharing of abstract constructions across languages. The particular grammatical phenomenon used here to introduce construction grammar (CG) is the construction that licenses the surprising syntactic and semantic features of a sentence like What are they doing resuscitating constructions?

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