Let’s go look at usage

A constructional approach to formal constraints on go-VERB

  • 1 Freie Universität Berlin


The English go-VERB construction as in I go get the paper every morning is said to be subject to the BARE STEM CONDITION, which states that neither verb can bear inflection (thus resulting in the ungrammaticality of *she went see/saw a doctor). Studies that address the constraint attribute it to underlying formal parameters, without paying attention to functional properties and/or usage events. The fact that we find occasional violations of the constraint in large amounts of data raises the question of the systematicity of this data and how to account for it. Arguing from a usage-based perspective, this paper assumes that the entrenched schema of go-VERB is hortatory (e.g., commands, advice, invitations), which make inflectional variants increasingly unlikely for semanticfunctional reasons. But where exceptions do occur, they are assumed to occur in contexts predicted by the construction’s semantics. These assumptions are borne out by data from a large corpus of web data. Potential counterexamples are tested for systematicity vs. random noise in (web) data using collostructional analysis and simple correlation measurements. The central arguments are thus (i) that the BARE STEM CONDITION is better conceived of as the result of go- VERB’s constructional semantics, and (ii) that rare exceptions can be framed in terms of likelihood of occurrence and distance from the licensing schema.

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The Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association documents the exchange of ideas in the Cognitive Linguistics research community and related fields, not just in Germany but all over the world. It brings together researchers from a variety of theoretical and methodological frameworks, whose work is informed by a broad view of language both as an integral part of human cognition and as a set of socially situated communicative practices.