Ann Coene & Klaas Willems:
Konstruktionelle Bedeutungen. Kritische Anmerkungen zu Adele Goldbergs konstruktionsgrammatischer Bedeutungstheorie

On constructional meanings. A critical analysis of Adele Goldberg’s Con-struction Grammar approach to meaning

In this paper we discuss the theory of constructional meanings and verb meanings presented by Adele Goldberg in her influential book Constructions (1995) and a number of other publications. Although we subscribe to one of the basic claims of the Construction Grammar approach to syntax, viz. that syntactic patterns are form/meaning units (signs), we show that Goldberg’s account of constructional and verb meanings raises a number of problems. Goldberg’s attempt to combine so-called “contruc-tional polysemy” with relatively stable verb meanings is flawed because constructional meanings are not coherently distinguished from lexical meanings. We argue that the semantic theory which underlies Goldberg’s Construction Grammar approach is circular, because constructional meanings are described on the basis of lexical meanings and because linguistic meanings in general are mixed up with encyclopaedic knowledge and pragmatic concepts. Other incoherences we address concern the extensions through so-called “polysemy links” within the set of constructional meanings proposed by Goldberg, as well as the integration of verb meanings into constructions. Our analysis shows that the kind of constructional meanings postulated by Goldberg should be regarded as norm instantiations of sentence patterns in which verb meanings and meanings of noun, prepositional and/or adverb phrases merge with non-linguistic conceptual knowledge to express communicative contents.

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