Unary Phrase Structure Rules and the Cognitive Linguistics Lexical Linking Theory

TitleUnary Phrase Structure Rules and the Cognitive Linguistics Lexical Linking Theory
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsKay, P.
Published inTheoretical Linguistics
Other Numbers3665

Mycomments will be restricted to the bearing ofMüller andWechsler’s (M&W’s)paperon the issue ofargument structure within constructional approaches to grammar. In particularthese commentswillcompare the unary phrase structure approach advocated by M&W to the influential approach of AdeleGoldberg (1995).The latterapproach has been widely accepted in themajorityfractionof theconstruction grammar community, whichalso participates in the Cognitive Linguistics tradition initiated by R. Langacker (1987) and G. Lakoff (1987). I will refer to the linking theory of this tradition as the Cognitive Linguists Linking Theory (CLLT). I take its original and clearest expression to be that proposed inthe seminal work of Adele Goldberg (1995). I will have three points to make. (1) The Cognitive Linguistics Linking Theory is not a phrasal theory and the CLLT Argument Structure Constructions (ASCs) are in fact lexical rules, albeit of a type or types superficially unlike the unary phrase structure (UPS) rules favored by M&W. (2) Despite the important insights contributed by Goldberg’s work to our understanding of the interaction between semantics and syntax in determining argument structures, the CLLT approach is limited in its empirical coverage because of its dedication to a thematic role hierarchy as the unique determinant of syntactic obliqueness.An approach embracing UPS rules and allowing for syntactic obliqueness on its own terms does not suffer this disadvantage. (3) When some mechanical details of the CLLT theory are filled in,it appears to be equivalent to a set of UPS lexical rules: the kind of lexical rules advocated byM&W.

Bibliographic Notes

Theoretical Linguistics, Vol. 40, Issue 1-2, Pages 149–163, ISSN (Online) 1613-4060, ISSN (Print) 0301-4428, DOI: 10.1515/tl-2014-0006, July 2014

Abbreviated Authors

P. Kay

ICSI Research Group


ICSI Publication Type

Article in journal or magazine