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Linguistics

An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: van der Auwera, Johan

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The partial productivity of constructions as induction

1 / Adele E. Goldberg1

1Princeton University

Correspondence Address: Laura Suttle, Psychology Department, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA.

Citation Information: Linguistics. Volume 49, Issue 6, Pages 1237–1269, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: 10.1515/ling.2011.035, November 2011

Publication History

Received:
2010-04-02
Revised:
2011-01-05
Published Online:
2011-11-03

Abstract

Whether words can be coerced by constructions into new uses is determined in part by semantic sensicality and statistical preemption. But other factors are also at play. Experimental results reported here suggest that speakers are more confident that a target coinage is acceptable to the degree that attested instances cover the semantic space that includes the target coinage. The relevance of coverage is supported by combined effects of type frequency and variability of attested instances [Experiments 1a–1b], and an expected interaction between similarity and variability [Experiment 3]. Similarity to an attested instance is also found to play a role: speakers are more confident of a target coinage when the coinage is more similar to an attested instance [Experiment 3]. Experiment 2 provides a manipulation check that indicates that participants are in fact basing their confidence ratings on the perceived productivity of constructions. The results reported here lend support to the idea that the productivity of constructions depends on general properties of induction.

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