Domain‐general processes as the basis for grammar

Joan L. Bybee

in The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199541119
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Domain‐general processes as the basis for grammar

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  • Linguistics
  • Language Evolution
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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The article demonstrates many aspects of grammar that can be derived from domain-general cognitive processes, especially those of neuromotor automation, chunking, categorization, inference-making, and cross-modal association. Construction grammar posits a direct connection between the conventionalized constructions of a language and their meanings. All constructions have some specific lexical or grammatical material in them. Construction grammar emphasizes the interaction of the lexicon with the syntax. The domain-general processes involved in construction formation and use are sequential processing and categorization. Sequential processing or chunking is the process by which repeated sequences of experience (words or other events) come to be grouped together in memory as units that can be accessed directly. Categorization is necessary to the cognitive representations of constructions in several ways. First, categorization is necessary for the recognition that an element or sequence is the same as one previously experienced. Second, categorization is used to develop the schematic slots of constructions. Constructions are created through the repetition and thus conventionalization of useful sequences of elements and their meanings arise from associations with the context and implications that are present. The most pervasive process by which new constructions are created is grammaticalization, in which a new construction is created along with a new grammatical morpheme and the latter evolves from a lexical morpheme or combinations of grammatical and lexical morphemes.

Keywords: domain-general cognitive processes; categorization; cross-modal association; construction grammar; grammatical material

Article.  3395 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Language Evolution ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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