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Academic Paper

Title: Usage, structure, and substance in the English ditransitive construction: Testing Hudson’s (1992) hypotheses with quantitative methods
Author: Yoshikata Shibuya
Author: Kim Ebensgaard Jensen
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Institution: Københavns Universitet
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science; Sociolinguistics; Syntax; Text/Corpus Linguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: In an important paper of the 'double-object'-construction, or the ditransitive construction, Hudson (1992) proposes a set of eleven hypotheses which he uses to support a claim that monotransitive objects (T-OBJ) and ditransitive direct objects (D-OBJ) should be conflated into the same syntactic functional category. In the perspective of contemporary usage-based linguistics (Kemmer & Barlow 2000), there are several problems with Hudson's account of the ditransitive construction. Firstly, it is based on the introspective acceptability judgments of a limited number of native speakers rather than on observation of actual usage-patterns of the construction in naturally occurring discourse. Secondly, Hudson very much treats ditransitives as a functional monolith, assuming functional uniformity and ignoring possible functional variation. Thirdly, his analysis is primarily based on formal structure and pays very little attention to semantic structure let alone conceptual substance. His conflation of the T-OBJ and D-OBJ categories is based on syntactic operations and the atomist assumption that both object types express the same semantic participant role. However, if one considers, as conceptual-substance-cum-semantic-structure, the scenarios encoded by monotransitives and ditransitives (Rasmussen & Jakobsen 1996: 103-105), the participants associated with T-OBJs and D-OBJs are non-uniform (Goldberg 1995, Croft et al. 2001: 583-586, Hopper and Thompson 1980). Unlike Hudson's (1992) syntactic account, a symbolic account would categorize the two types of objects as distinct and construction-specific syntactic functions. Drawing on data from ICE-GB and applying techniques from quantitative corpus linguistics (e.g. Gries 2009), we empirically test Hudson's hypotheses in the perspective of contemporary usage-based construction grammar (e.g. Bybee 2013). For example, a comparison of D-OBJs and T-OBJs in ICE-GB suggests that, even in a purely structural perspective, the two objects are considerably different, as only the latter allows. A distinctive collostructional analysis (Gries & Stefanowitsch 2004) further suggests differences at the level of conceptual content. Hudson (1992: 266-268) observes variation in the functionality of D-OBJs depending on the verb, such that, unlike those occurring with give and deny, D-OBJs occurring with peel take on a more adjunct-like function, but gives the construction the monolithic treatment. We argue that such variation may be reflective of different underlying exemplars, such that there may be functionally and semantically distinct D-OBJ types. As is apparent, structure and substance must be taken into account if one is to understand the ditransitive and the nature of its syntactic constituents. We will also address the extent to which context-specific information of the type that contemporary usage-based linguists would consider bona fide constructional knowledge, such as register-specificity and various types of association-patterns (Biber et al. 1998: 5), interrelates with substance and structure. For instance, a multiple distinctive collexeme analysis along the lines of Schönefeld (2013) suggests different verb-construction attraction patterns in the construction in different registers, and this is supported by a correspondence analysis of relative frequencies of verbs in the construction within the different registers of ICE-GB. This seems to indicate register-specific variability in canonicity of symbolic structure. In other words, our analysis seems to suggest that conventional encoding of substance in the ditransitive is register sensitive.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Venue: Substance and Structure in Linguistics, University of Copenhagen, February 28, 2015.
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