Multimodal constructs – multimodal constructions? The role of constructions in the working memory

Thomas Hoffmann 1
  • 1 Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Universitätsallee 1, Eichstätt, Germany
Thomas Hoffmann
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  • Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, English and American Studies, Universitätsallee 1, Eichstätt, Germany
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Language is a symbolic system, whose basic units are arbitrary and conventionalized pairings of form and meaning. In fact, in light of substantive empirical evidence, Construction Grammar approaches advocate the view that not only words but all levels of grammatical description – from morphemes, words, and idioms to abstract phrasal patterns as well as larger discourse patterns – comprise form-meaning pairings, which are collectively referred to as constructions. In this paper, I will discuss the status of multimodal usage-events (multimodal constructs) for the potential entrenchment of multimodal constructions and their implications for human cognition in general. As I will argue, constructionist approaches need to pay more attention to the role of the working memory in assembling and interpreting constructions. Drawing on verbal as well as gesture constructions, I will show that it is essential to distinguish entrenched constructions that are stored in the long-term memory from form-meaning pairings that are assembled in the working memory (online constructions). Once this distinction is made, the precise role of multimodal constructs and the nature of multimodal constructions can finally be disentangled.

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