Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton November 28, 2018

The more data, the better: A usage-based account of the English comparative correlative construction

Thomas Hoffmann, Jakob Horsch and Thomas Brunner
From the journal Cognitive Linguistics

Abstract

Languages are complex systems that allow speakers to produce novel grammatical utterances. Yet, linguists differ as to how general and abstract they think the mental representation of speakers have to be to give rise to this grammatical creativity. In order to shed light on these questions, the present study looks at one specific construction type, English comparative correlatives, that turns out to be particularly interesting in this context: on the one hand it has been described in terms of one of the most abstract and general syntactic rules, on the other hand it shows specific idiomatic structures that are often produced without any variation (e.g. the more, the merrier). While the syntax and semantics of the English Comparative Correlative (CC) construction have received considerable attention in the literature, so far only a small number of usage-based analyses have been published on the topic. These either only relied on small databases or focussed only on the productivity of one slot in the construction. In contrast to this, the present study analyses more than 1,400 CC tokens sampled from COCA. The results of the present study yield important results concerning English CC constructions, including the schematicity and generality of their mental representations.

Funding statement: This study was supported in part by a German Research Foundation (DFG) grant (HO 3904/5-1).

References

Barðdal, Johanna. 2006. Construction-specific properties of syntactic subjects in Icelandic and German. Cognitive Linguistics 17(1). 39–106.10.1515/COG.2006.002Search in Google Scholar

Barðdal, Johanna. 2008. Productivity: Evidence from case and argument structure in Icelandic. (Constructional Approaches to Language 8.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins.10.1075/cal.8Search in Google Scholar

Barðdal, Johanna. 2011. Lexical vs. structural case: A false dichotomy. Morphology 21(1). 619–654.10.1007/s11525-010-9174-1Search in Google Scholar

Beck, Sigrid. 1997. On the semantics of comparative conditionals. Linguistics and Philosophy 20(3). 229–271.10.1023/A:1005361901518Search in Google Scholar

Booij, Geert. 2010. Construction morphology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1111/j.1749-818X.2010.00213.xSearch in Google Scholar

Borsley, Robert. D. 2004. An approach to English comparative correlatives. In Stefan Müller (eds.), Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, 70–92. Stanford: CSLI Publications.10.21248/hpsg.2004.4Search in Google Scholar

Brasoveanu, Adrian. 2008. Comparative and equative correlatives as anaphora to differentials. Poster presented at Semantics and Linguistic Theory 18, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and at the 9th Semfest, Stanford.10.3765/salt.v18i0.2479Search in Google Scholar

Bybee, Joan L. 1985. Morphology: A study of the relation between meaning and form. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: Benjamins.10.1075/tsl.9Search in Google Scholar

Bybee, Joan L. 1995. Regular morphology and the lexicon. Language and Cognitive Processes 10. 425–455.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195301571.003.0008Search in Google Scholar

Bybee, Joan L. 2006. From usage to grammar: The mind’s response to repetition. Language 82. 711–733.10.1353/lan.2006.0186Search in Google Scholar

Bybee, Joan L. 2010. Language, usage and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511750526Search in Google Scholar

Bybee, Joan L. 2013. Usage-based theory and exemplar representations of constructions. In Thomas Hoffmann & Graeme Trousdale (eds.), The Oxford handbook of construction grammar, 49–69. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195396683.013.0004Search in Google Scholar

Cappelle, Bert. 2011. The thethe… construction: Meaning and readings. Journal of Pragmatics 43(1). 99–117.10.1016/j.pragma.2010.08.002Search in Google Scholar

Chomsky, Noam. 1981. Lectures on government and binding. (Studies in Generative Grammar 9) Dordrecht, Holland: Foris Publication.Search in Google Scholar

Chomsky, Noam. 1995. The minimalist program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Chomsky, Noam. 2000. Minimalist inquiries: The framework. In Roger Martin, David Michaels & Juan Uriagereka, (eds.), Step by step: Essays on minimalist syntax in honor of Howard Lasnik, 89–155. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Chomsky, Noam. 2001. Derivation by phase. In Michael Kenstowicz, (ed.), Ken Hale: A life in language, 1–52. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Croft, William. 2001. Radical construction grammar: Syntactic theory in typological perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299554.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Croft, William & Alan D. Cruse. 2004. Cognitive linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511803864Search in Google Scholar

Culicover, Peter W. & Ray Jackendoff. 1999. The view from the periphery: The English comparative correlative. Linguistic Inquiry 30. 543–571.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199271092.003.0014Search in Google Scholar

Dayal, Veneeta. 1996. Locality in WH quantification: Questions and relative clauses in Hindi. (Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy 62.) Dordrecht: Kluwer.10.1007/978-94-011-4808-5Search in Google Scholar

Davies, Mark. 2009. The 385+ million word corpus of contemporary American English (1990–2008+ ): Design, architecture, and linguistic insights. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 14. 159–190.10.1075/ijcl.14.2.02davSearch in Google Scholar

Den Dikken, Marcel. 2005. Comparative correlatives comparatively. Linguistic Inquiry 36. 497–532.10.1162/002438905774464377Search in Google Scholar

Ellis, Nick C. 2007. Language acquisition as rational contingency learning. Applied Linguistics 27(1). 1–24.10.1093/applin/ami038Search in Google Scholar

Ellis, Nick C. & Ferreira-Junior, Fernando. 2009. Constructions and their acquisition: Islands and the distinctiveness of their occupancy. Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics 7. 187–220.10.1075/arcl.7.08ellSearch in Google Scholar

Evert, Stefan. 2009. Corpora and collocations. In Anke Lüdeling & Merja Kytö (eds.), Corpus linguistics: An international handbook, vol. 2, 1212–1248. Berlin & New York: Mouton De Gruyter.Search in Google Scholar

Fillmore, Charles J. 1987. Varieties of conditional sentences. Proceedings of the Eastern States Conference on Linguistics 3. 163–182.Search in Google Scholar

Fillmore, Charles J., Paul Kay & Mary C. O’Connor. 1988. Regularity and idiomaticity in grammatical constructions: The case of let alone. Language 64. 501–538.10.2307/414531Search in Google Scholar

Fillmore, Charles J., Paul Kay, Laura Michaelis & Ivan Sag. 2007. Sign-based construction grammar. Unpublished manuscript.Search in Google Scholar

Francis, W. Nelson & Henry Kučera 1979. BROWN corpus manual: Manual of information to accompany A Standard Corpus of Present-Day Edited American English, for use with Digital Computers. Revised and Amplified version. Providence, Rhode Island: Brown University. clu.uni.no/icame/manuals/BROWN/INDEX.HTMSearch in Google Scholar

Goldberg, Adele E. 1995. Constructions: A construction grammar approach to argument structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar

Goldberg, Adele E. 2003. Constructions: A new theoretical approach to language. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences 7. 219–224.10.1016/S1364-6613(03)00080-9Search in Google Scholar

Goldberg, Adele E. 2006. Constructions at work: The nature of generalisation in language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Gries, Stefan Th. 2007. Coll.analysis 3.2a. A program for R for Windows 2.x. http://www.linguistics.ucsb.edu/faculty/stgries/teaching/groningen/index.html. (accessed 29 January 2018).Search in Google Scholar

Gries, Stefan Th. 2009. Statistics for linguistics with R: A practical introduction. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110216042Search in Google Scholar

Gries, Stefan Th. 2013a. Data in construction grammar. In Thomas Hoffmann & Graeme Trousdale (eds.), The Oxford handbook of construction grammar, 93–108. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195396683.013.0006Search in Google Scholar

Gries, Stefan Th. 2013b. 50-something years of work on collocations: What is or should be next … International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 18(1). 137–165.10.1075/bct.74.07griSearch in Google Scholar

Gries, Stefan Th. 2015a. Quantitative designs and statistical techniques. In Douglas Biber & Randi Reppen (eds.), The Cambridge handbook of english corpus linguistics, 50–71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9781139764377.004Search in Google Scholar

Gries, Stefan Th 2015b. The role of quantitative methods in Cognitive Linguistics: corpus and experimental data on (relative) frequency and contingency of words and constructions. In Jocelyne Daems, Eline Zenner, Kris Heylen, Dirk Speelman, & Hubert Cuyckens (eds.), Change of paradigmsnew paradoxes: Recontextualizing language and linguistics, 311–325. Berlin & New York: De Gruyter Mouton.10.1515/9783110435597-018Search in Google Scholar

Hawkins, John A. 2004. Efficiency and complexity in grammars. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199252695.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Hoffmann, Thomas. 2011. Preposition placement in English: A usage-based approach. (Studies in English Language.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Hoffmann, Thomas. 2013. Obtaining introspective acceptability judgements. In Manfred Krug & Julia Schlüter (eds.), Research methods in language variation and change, 99–118. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511792519.008Search in Google Scholar

Hoffmann, Thomas. 2014a. The cognitive evolution of Englishes: The role of constructions in the Dynamic Model. In Sarah Buschfeld, Thomas Hoffmann, Magnus Huber & Alexander Kautzsch (eds.), The evolution of Englishes: The Dynamic Model and beyond. (Varieties of English Around the World G49.), 160–180. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.10.1075/veaw.g49.10hofSearch in Google Scholar

Hoffmann, Thomas. 2014b. Comparing English comparative correlatives. Habilitationsschrift (Post-Doc thesis), Osnabrück University.Search in Google Scholar

Hoffmann, Thomas. 2017. Construction grammars. In Barbara Dancygier (ed.), The Cambridge handbook of cognitive linguistics, 310–329. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/9781316339732.020Search in Google Scholar

Huddleston, Rodney. 2002. Comparative constructions. In Rodney Huddleston & Geoffrey K. Pullum (eds.), The Cambridge grammar of the English language, 1097–1170. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/9781316423530.014Search in Google Scholar

Hudson, Richard A. 1990. English word grammar. Oxford: Blackwell.Search in Google Scholar

Hudson, Richard A. 2007. Language networks: The new word grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Hundt, Marianne, Andrea Sand & Paul Skandera. 1999. Manual of information to accompany the Freiburg – Brown Corpus of American English (‘Frown’). Freiburg: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. clu.uni.no/icame/manuals/FROWN/INDEX.HTMSearch in Google Scholar

Hundt, Marianne, Andrea Sand & Rainer Siemund. 1998. Manual of information to accompany the Freiburg – LOB Corpus of British English (‘FLOB’). Freiburg: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. clu.uni.no/icame/manuals/FLOB/INDEX.HTMSearch in Google Scholar

Iwasaki, Eiichi & Andrew Radford. 2009. Comparative correlatives in English: A minimalist-cartographic analysis. Essex Research Reports in Linguistics 57(6). 1–14.Search in Google Scholar

Johansson, Stig, Geoffrey N. Leech & Helen Goodluck. 1978. Manual information to accompany the LANCASTER-OSLO/BERGEN CORPUS of British English, for use with digital computers. Oslo: University of Oslo. http://clu.uni.no/icame/manuals/LOB/INDEX.HTMSearch in Google Scholar

Kim, Jong-Bok. 2011. English comparative correlative construction: Interactions between lexicon and constructions. Korean Journal of Linguistics 36(2). 307–336.10.18855/lisoko.2011.36.2.001Search in Google Scholar

Kim, Jong-Bok & Peter Sells. 2011. The big mess construction: Interactions between the lexicon and constructions. English Language and Linguistics 15. 335–362.10.1017/S1360674311000062Search in Google Scholar

Lakoff, George. 1987. Women, fire and dangerous things: What categories reveal about the mind. Chicago: Chicago University Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226471013.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Langacker, Ron W. 1987. Foundations of cognitive grammar. Vol. I: Theoretical prerequisites. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

McCawley, James D. 1988. The comparative conditional construction in English, German, and Chinese. Berkeley Linguistics Society 14. 176–187.10.3765/bls.v14i0.1791Search in Google Scholar

Michaelis, Laura A. 1994. A case of constructional polysemy in Latin. Studies in Language 18. 45–70.10.1075/sl.18.1.04micSearch in Google Scholar

Nelson, Gerald, Sean Wallis & Bas Aarts. 2002. Exploring natural language: Working with the British component of the International corpus of English. Amsterdam: Benjamins.10.1075/veaw.g29Search in Google Scholar

R Development Core Team. 2008. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. www.R-project.org.Search in Google Scholar

Sag, Ivan A. 2010. English filler-gap constructions. Language 86(3). 486–545.10.1353/lan.2010.0002Search in Google Scholar

Schmid, Hans-Jörg. 2000. English abstract nouns as conceptual shells: From corpus to cognition. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110808704Search in Google Scholar

Stefanowitsch, Anatol & Susanne Flach. 2017. The corpus-based perspective on entrenchment. In Hans-Jörg Schmid (ed.), Entrenchment and the psychology of language learning: How we reorganize and adapt linguistic knowledge, 101–127. Berlin: de Gruyter.10.1037/15969-006Search in Google Scholar

Stefanowitsch, Anatol & Stefan Th. Gries. 2005. Covarying collexemes. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 1. 1–43.10.1515/cllt.2005.1.1.1Search in Google Scholar

Taylor, Heather. 2013. Grammar deconstructed: Constructions and the curious case of the comparative correlative. PhD thesis, University of Maryland. drum.lib.umd.edu/handle/1903/14114Search in Google Scholar

Van Eynde, Frank. 2007. The big mess construction. In Stefan Müller (ed.), The Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar, 415–433. Stanford: CSLI Publications.10.21248/hpsg.2007.24Search in Google Scholar

Wierzbicka, Anna. 1988. The semantics of grammar. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.10.1075/slcs.18Search in Google Scholar

Zeldes, Amir. 2009. Quantifying constructional productivity with unseen slot members. Proceedings of the NAACL HLT Workshop on Computational Approaches to Linguistic Creativity, June 5, Boulder CO, 47–54.Search in Google Scholar

Zeldes, Amir. 2013. Productive argument selection: Is lexical semantics enough? Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 9(2). 263–291.10.1515/cllt-2013-0006Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2018-04-03
Revised: 2018-07-04
Accepted: 2018-07-06
Published Online: 2018-11-28
Published in Print: 2019-02-25

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston