Sign-Based Construction Grammar

Laura A. Michaelis

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199544004
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Sign-Based Construction Grammar

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



To practise Construction Grammar is to accept a proposition that is anathema to most linguists, whether they be ‘formalists’ or ‘functionalists’: many, if not most, of the grammatical facts which people appear to know cannot be resolved into general principles, but must instead be stipulated. This stipulation takes the form of a grammatical construction. Grammatical constructions are recipes for word combinations that speakers use to achieve specific communicative goals, e.g., issuing an order, requesting information, attributing a property to an entity. This chapter describes the formalized version of Construction Grammar: Sign-Based Construction Grammar (SBCG), beginning with a discussion of SBCG formalism. It then discusses four rationales that constructionists have offered for a construction-based view of syntax. These are: (i) constructions license arguments and syntactic sisterhood relations; (ii) there is a continuum of idiomaticity; (iii) core and periphery are interleaved during production; and (iv) constructions have formal and interpretive conditions that cannot be captured by mapping procedures. The chapter concludes by discussing the role of construction-based syntax in the search for syntactic universals.

Keywords: grammatical construction; linguistics; idiomaticity; syntax; syntactic universals

Article.  8283 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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