From X to Y: Anatomy of a Constructional Pattern

  • Javier Valenzuela Universidad de Murcia


Compositionality is undoubtedly one of the hardest problems in linguistics. In decoding theories, the speaker occupies a leading role, having to carefully choose the form that better encodes the meaning to be communicated. In contrast, in inferential theories, the burden is shifted from speaker to hearer: linguistic information typically underspecifies meaning and the hearer must make a number of inferences to bridge the gap between what is said and what is meant. In this article, I argue that constructional meaning can aid the process of sentence meaning formation by providing a scaffold that can help the hearer with the construal operations. Constructions, by providing an additional layer of meaning, constrain the range of possible meanings activated by words thereby reducing the combinatorial explosion when several words are joined together. This process is examined here by analysing the meanings associated with the grammatical construction [from X to Y], which is connected to a polysemy network of related senses, using examples extracted from a multimodal corpus. A preliminary analysis of the gesturing behaviour associated with the different senses proposed is also included, which can be seen to contribute to the characterisation of the different senses of the polysemy network.

Author Biography

Javier Valenzuela, Universidad de Murcia
Javier Valenzuela is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Murcia, where he teaches semantics and cognitive linguistics and leads the research group “Language, Cognition and Translation” (E020-06). His research is focused on empirical validations of cognitive linguistics, using psycholinguistic methods and corpus studies. He is especially interested in the sensorimotor bases of abstract thought and the multimodal aspects of communication.


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