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Creating an inventory of argumental and idiomatic constructions in English and Spanish: grammatical, pragmatic and discursive implications (FFI2008-05035-C02-01)

This project takes as a starting point the Lexical Constructional Model (LCM), which postulates four levels of semantic representation: the first level accounts for core grammar elements of syntactically relevant semantic interpretation; the second level deals with low-level inferential aspects of communication that have given rise to entrenched form-meaning associations ( i.e. heavily conventionalized pragmatic implications); the third level deals with heavily conventionalized high-level inferences originally obtained by abstracting away from lower-level situations generic structure that usually takes the form of illocutionary scenarios; the fourth level accounts for the linguistic mechanisms that underlie discourse constructions, with particular emphasis on cohesion and coherence phenomena. The LCM specifies some of the conditions for the incorporation of representations from one level into the higher levels and for the interaction between constructions at the same level. It is also developing an inventory of lexical characterizations in the form of lexical templates within a number of primitive domains obtained on the basis of lexematic factorization procedures by Faber & Mairal (1999). To the inventory of lexical characterizations, we are adding an associated inventory of semantically-motivated syntactic templates, which have a realizational nature with respect to the former. We have also studied some syntactic configurations that are not derivable on the basis of lexical projection into syntax and have postulated the existence of higher-level constructions (some of them very similar to those postulated by Goldberg, 1995, 2006) with an independent status. However, we have not been able to explore either dependent or independent constructions systematically. The new project is focused on creating such an inventory of constructions. We will do so on the basis of looking for systematic relationships between lexical and syntactic representations, on the one hand, and by exploring syntactic configurations that are not reasonably derivable from lexical projection, on the other. We will also group constructions into hierarchical networks that capture their relations, with a view to finding generalizations of constructional features that are common to the various classes of items. Finally, we will make our database contrastive between English and Spanish. The two languages show similarities but also significant differences in terms of constructional variation. These similarities and differences have to be taken into account for language teaching and translation (including automated translation) purposes. Our study will range over the four proposed levels of semantic representation. The aim of this project, then, is to study constructions from both Spanish and English at the four levels of representation that the LCM proposes. The division of tasks between the two research teams is as follows: the team in the National University of Distance Education at Madrid will study idiomatic Level 1 constructions, and the structures from the other levels of representation (Levels 2 to 4) in the model as well. In a parallel fashion, the team based in the University of La Laguna will deal with Core Grammar constructions, i.e., low-level and non-idiomatic semantic structures that form part of Level 1 representations in the LCM.