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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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Syntactic Argumentation and Radical Construction Grammar

Syntactic Argumentation and Radical Construction Grammar

Chapter:
(p.3) 1 Syntactic Argumentation and Radical Construction Grammar
Source:
Radical Construction Grammar
Author(s):

William Croft (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299554.003.0001

The fundamental question of syntactic theory is: what is the nature of a speaker’s grammatical knowledge? But an equally fundamental question is hardly discussed: is there a general method to demonstrate the existence of the syntactic categories and elements that are the basic units of syntactic theory? The standard method is distributional analysis, the employment of different constructions as arguments (tests) for an analysis. But distributional analysis shows that one cannot establish universal basic syntactic categories and relations, because of mismatches among the tests within and across languages. So theorists engage in methodological opportunism, using different tests in different languages and ignoring conflicting results across tests in the same language. But this is empirically invalid. This chapter argues that we must abandon the belief that atomic categories and relations are the primitives of syntactic theory. Instead, constructions are the primitives of syntactic theory — a radical version of construction grammar.

Keywords:   syntactic theory, construction, distributional analysis, arguments, tests, methodological opportunism

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