Utterance Construction Grammar (UCxG) and the variable multimodality of constructions

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Some proponents of the theory of Construction Grammar have been investigating how it might address the nature of spoken language usage as multimodal. Problems confronted in this endeavour include the variability with which gesture is used with speech in terms of its (in)frequency and its (non) obligatoriness: for some expressions a certain kind of gesture is basically obligatory, but for most others it is a variably optional component depending on contextual factors. This article proposes “utterance” as a level of description above that of speech and gesture for characterizing audio-visual communicative constructions. It picks up on earlier proposals to consider constructions as prototype categories with more central and more peripheral features. The language community’s knowledge of a given utterance construction and that of any language user are discussed as “deep structures” (in a non-Chomskian sense) that provide a set of options (some more central and others more peripheral) for expression, whereby any “surface structure” is a metonymic precipitation in context of the construction’s features. An important attentional mechanism proposed that guides production and comprehension (“uptake”) of utterance constructions is the dynamic scope of relevant behaviors. Taken together, this approach may help bring Construction Grammar closer to being a truly usage-based theory.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20160048
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalLinguistics Vanguard
Issue numbers1
Early online date29 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Special issue: Towards a multimodal construction grammar / Issue Editors: Elisabeth Zima and Alexander Bergs


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