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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 Categories and Semantic Relativity

Syntactic Categories and Semantic Relativity

(p.108) 3 Syntactic Categories and Semantic Relativity
Radical Construction Grammar

William Croft (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Radical Construction Grammar, like other construction grammars, treats constructions as pairings of form and meaning, and like typology, uses meaning as the basis for crosslinguistic comparison. Semantic or linguistic relativity poses a potential problem for Radical Construction Grammar, because it hypothesizes that meaning varies depending on the formal constructions used. This chapter argues that arguments for semantic relativity contain several hidden assumptions which are implausible: contrast across languages implies contrast within a language; semantic analyses always involve monosemy, not polysemy; linguistic analyses must avoid syntagmatic semantic redundancy; and one can only posit a relativistic analysis of one part of a construction by assuming a universal analysis of another part of the construction (the Semantic Uncertainty Principle). Instead, grammatical differences are the result of different patterns of semantic extension and grammaticalization, and semantic change eventually reasserts the universal semantics of particular situation types.

Keywords:   relativity, polysemy, monosemy, contrast, redundancy, grammaticalization, meaning, semantic change

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