Why the Principle of No Synonymy is Overrated

Peter Uhrig 1
  • 1 Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Department Anglistik/Amerikanistik und Romanistik, Bismarckstraße 1, 91054 Erlangen
Peter Uhrig


The formulation of Goldberg’s oft-quoted Principle of No Synonymy is one of the factors responsible for a shift away in attention from alternations as postulated in the generative transformational tradition towards a view that regards the so-called alternatives as conveying different meanings and thus not being real alternatives. The rejection of the generativist position, in which one variant was regarded as primary and the other as derived from the primary variant, is of course justified and necessary in a cognitive linguistic approach, but it will be argued in this paper that the Principle of No Synonymy – if regarded as a dogma – is misleading in that it bears the risk of missing important generalisations across different patterns of the same verb. Furthermore, it will be argued that both linguistic variation and pre-emption are not perfectly compatible with the Principle of No Synonymy.

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