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BY 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2019

Binding scale dynamics

Dagmar Divjak


This paper contributes to current debates in linguistic theory and methodology by focusing on discreteness versus continuity in linguistic description as well as on the importance of structure versus use for understanding mental representations of language phenomena. It does so through a case study on the Polish [finite verb + infinitive] construction, henceforth [Vfin Vinf]. Within a Cognitive Linguistic framework, Divjak (2007) proposed a structurally underpinned Binding Scale encompassing eight levels of looser to tighter integration, with verbs expressing modality, intention, attempt, result and phase representing the most integrated type of [Vfin Vinf] constructions. Cognitive Linguistics aims to give a usage-based account of the complex system that language is, grounded in general cognitive principles. But at which level of abstraction should we pitch the linguistic description of a system such as the [Vfin Vinf] system to find such motivating principles at work? In this paper, I assess the distance between usage and structure by investigating whether the proposed Binding Scale can be reliably distinguished in judgments of usage events through statistical unsupervised learning. By experimenting with the type of abstraction that needs to be imposed on acceptability ratings to arrive at a meaningful classification, conclusions can be drawn about the social or mental nature of this structure.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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