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Cognitive Linguistics

Editor-in-Chief: Newman, John

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Motivating non-canonicality in Construction Grammar: The case of locative inversion

Gert Webelhuth
  • Goethe University Frankfurt
  • :
Published Online: 2011-05-17 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cogl.2011.004


This article discusses the English construction variously known as Locative Inversion or Stylistic Inversion. It shows that the construction displays a unique ensemble of grammatical and usage properties that can be stated but not motivated through purely grammatical means. In search of an explanatory approach, an analysis is presented that draws on concepts of Artificial Intelligence, in particular plans viewed as complex mental attitudes. It is claimed that utterances of Locative Inversion are associated with a particular communicative plan on the speaker's part that motivates the grammatical and usage properties of the construction where grammar alone cannot. The final section of the article presents corpus examples showing that Locative Inversion is indeed used in the contexts predicted by the plan associated with the construction. This result is both theoretically and methodologically significant, insofar as it constitutes a case where the grammatical properties of a syntactic construction are better explained through its typical conditions of use than through grammatical means proper.

Keywords:: constructions; discourse motivation; locative inversion; plans

Received: 2010-02-16

Revised: 2010-08-07

Published Online: 2011-05-17

Published in Print: 2011-02-01

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics. Volume 22, Issue 1, Pages 81–105, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cogl.2011.004, May 2011

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