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Radical Construction GrammarSyntactic Theory in Typological Perspective$
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William Croft

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198299554

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299554.001.0001

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Clausal Syntactic Roles (“Grammatical Relations”)

Clausal Syntactic Roles (“Grammatical Relations”)

Chapter:
(p.132) 4 Clausal Syntactic Roles (“Grammatical Relations”)
Source:
Radical Construction Grammar
Author(s):

William Croft (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299554.003.0004

The syntactic roles (grammatical relations) of subject and object are semantically irregular but their syntactic behavior is claimed to be syntactically unified, thereby justifying the existence of formal syntactic roles independent of meaning. Subject and object are certainly polysemous categories semantically, but syntactically they are no simpler. Ergativity shows that syntactic roles can vary across languages. Ergativity has been discounted in most syntactic theories by selectively ignoring certain constructions such as case marking and agreement (methodological opportunism). But the variation across and even within languages conforms to a universal implicational hierarchy, the Subject Construction Hierarchy: coordination < purpose clauses < relative clauses < agreement < case marking. If a construction patterns ergatively at some point on the hierarchy, then all constructions to the right also pattern ergatively. Language-specific syntactic roles can be mapped onto a conceptual space whose structure represents the semantic participant roles and the Subject Construction Hierarchy.

Keywords:   grammatical relations, subject, object, ergativity, split intransitivity, agreement, case marking, coordination, relative clause, purpose clause

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