Construction Grammar: Basic Principles and Concepts

Philipp Wasserscheidt, Humboldt-University of Berlin, Germany



The article provides an overview of Construction Grammar. First, a general survey of the basic principles and major strands of the grammatical theory is given. The main assumptions include the recognition that all linguistic knowledge is of the same type as knowledge in general and follows the same principles such as categorization, abstraction and generalization. In the second part, the presentation focuses on two important elements of construction grammar research: the concept of the construction as complex sign and the abandoning of the distinction between lexicon and grammar. Using examples from Ukrainian, the different relationships between constructions of different complexity and schematicity in the so-called constructicon – the common space of both lexical and grammatical knowledge – are described. It is shown, how abstract constructions offer slots for other elements and how these are constrained regarding form and meaning. In addition, the status of constructions as complex signs is assessed from the perspective of semantics and compositionality. It is highlighted that Construction Grammar rejects the assumption of compositionality and rather conceptualizes meaning as determined by the construction itself. At the same time, semantics is understood in an encyclopaedic sense, which renders the description of constructions highly detailed and language-specific.

Key words

Construction Grammar, Ukrainian, Constructions, Sign, Grammatical Theory.

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