Corpus evidence on the role of metaphorical motivation in argument-structure constructions
This paper builds on a “coarse-grained” (cf. Gries 2006) ICE-GB-based corpus study of mine on the various “complex-transitive” argument structures of English. These are AS, in which the direct object is either followed by an object-related directional or locative adverbial (ex (1)) or by an adjectival or nominal object-complement (ex (2), (3)); they have been most prominently discussed in the CG literature under the label “resultative”. I utilized all of the various methods from the family of “collostruction” analysis (cf. Gries & Stefanowitsch 2004a, b; Stefanowitsch & Gries 2003, 2005) in order to (i) determine which kinds of verbs (/verb classes) – and thus which basic meanings – are associated most closely with these complex-transitive AS; and also most distinctive for any of them in a comparison of all their lexical realisations. I also checked how the lexical realisations of the respective verb slots co-vary with those of the lexical heads of the object-related adverbial or complement (commonly referred to as “RP” in the CG-literature on transitive resultatives). While step (i) serves to precisely describe the semantic potential of/differences between these ASCs, step (ii) filters out potential lower-level schemas referring to much more specific event scenarios.
(1) They throw a car [PP out of a plane] … <S1A-058> / And how long do I keep it [PPin my mouth] ? <S1A-087> / The body of a woman was found by police [PP in a car nearby]. <S2B-016>
(2) The response made her [AdjP even unhappier]. <W2F-006> / She has difficulty in keeping her teeth clean. <S2A-062> / I have no doubt that they are also considered [AdjP horrible] according to Muslim values… <S1B-036> / It is better called [AdjP usual , believable , unsurprising]. <W2E-004>
(3) What you might call [NP foresight]. <W2F-014> / This … made it [NP a competitive form of transport]. <S2B-022> / So do you consider yourself very much [NP a stereotype kind of Jew]. <S1A-041>
In this paper, I utilize the findings of this quantitative study to discuss the role of metaphorical motivation in ASCs from an empirical angle. I argue for a strictly usage-based account that relies much more strongly on various mid- and low level generalizations, particularly verb-class based constructional schemas and partially filled syntactic frames which reflect not just very generic, but also highly (culture-) specific metaphorizations. It is argued that the lexical idiosyncracies/limited productivity observed in the CG literature are due to processes that resemble “pre-emption” by lexicalization in language acquisition.