Thursday 6 July 2023


Thomas Herbst (Friedrich-Alexander Universität)

How corpus linguistics inevitably leads to Construction Grammar – on the interrelatedness of lexis and grammar

There can be no doubt that computational corpus linguistics has led to a rather dramatic change in the way that many linguists perceive the nature of language as such. Apart from the fact that the widespread availability of data of language use at a previously unprecedented scale puts lexicographers, grammarians, language teachers and textbook authors in a position to arrive at much more accurate descriptions, corpus linguistics has also had an enormous impact on theoretical linguistics. This, I would like to argue, is not so much because of the “discovery” of new phenomena, but corpus analysis has enabled us to better understand the character of the elements that make up language, and in particular the interplay of lexical and grammatical units.

It is interesting to see that in the year 2008 one of the most renowned British corpus linguists, John Sinclair, and the founder of Cognitive Grammar, Ronald Langacker, highlighted the importance of prefabricated multi-word units and rejected the idea of a clear dividing line between lexis and grammar in almost identical terms. This talk will outline these developments and show how corpus linguistic findings play an instrumental role in a lot of usage-based research and in particular in the identification and description of different types of constructions (in the special sense in which the term is used in Construction Grammar, e.g. by Fillmore, Kay & O’Connor 1988; Goldberg 2006, 2019; Gilquin 2010; Boas, Lyngfelt & Torrent 2019; Herbst 2020; Hilpert 2020; Goldberg & Herbst 2021; Hoffmann 2022; Herbst & Hoffmann forthc.).


Boas, Hans C., Benjamin Lyngfelt, & Tiago Timponi Torrent. 2019. Framing constructicography. Lexicographica, 35, 15–59.

Fillmore, Charles J., Paul Kay, & Mary Catherine O’Connor. 1988. Regularity and Idiomaticity in Grammatical Constructions: The Case of let alone. Language 64. 501–538.

Gilquin, Gaëtanelle. 2010. Corpus, Cognition and Causative Constructions. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Goldberg, Adele E. 2006. Constructions at Work. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.

Goldberg, Adele E. 2019. Explain me this. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Goldberg, Adele E. & Thomas Herbst. 2021. The nice-of-you construction and its fragments. Linguistics. https://doi.org/doi.org/10.1515/ling-2020-0274.

Herbst, Thomas. 2020. Constructions, generalizations, and the unpredictability of language Moving towards colloconstruction grammar. Constructions and Frames, 12(1), (SI Construction Grammar across Borders), 56–96. https://doi.org/10.1075/cf.00035.her.

Herbst, Thomas & Thomas Hoffmann. forthcoming 2024. A Construction Grammar of the English Language: CASA – a constructionist approach to syntactic analysis. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Hilpert, Martin. 2020. Constructional Approaches. In Bas Aarts, Jill Bowie, & Gergana Popova (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of English Grammar, pp. 106–123. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press.

Hoffmann, Thomas. 2022. Construction Grammar: The Structure of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Langacker, Ronald W. 2008. The relevance of Cognitive Grammar for language pedagogy. In Sabine de Knop & Teun Rycker (Eds.), Cognitive Approaches to Pedagogical Grammar, pp. 7–35. Berlin: de Gruyter.

Sinclair, John McH. 2008. The phrase, the whole phrase and nothing but the phrase. In Sylviane Granger & Fanny Meunier (eds.), Phraseology. An interdisciplinary perspective, pp. 407–410. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


Friday 7 July 2023


Susan Hunston (University of Birmingham)

Constructions and their Networks: Using system networks to derive constructions from grammar patterns

This paper reports the first phase of a project to align Pattern Grammar with Construction Grammar and with Systemic Functional Grammar (Hunston 2022). The aim of this phase is to derive sets of constructions from each of 60 verb-based grammar patterns (Hunston & Francis 2000). Unlike other approaches to constructicons, the starting point for this project is the grammar pattern. Analysis of patterns thus far suggests that up to 40 separate constructions can be identified for each pattern. To date, over 50 patterns have been analysed, resulting in the identification and description of approximately 1400 constructions.

In this paper, the process of identifying constructions from patterns is described and the information given about each construction is specified. Description of the construction has taken into consideration Perek and Patten’s (2019) work in aligning patterns, constructions and FrameNet terminology and Hank’s (2013) Corpus Pattern Analysis. The results of the identification and description of constructions is a searchable database that will be exemplified in the paper.

It is a major claim of the Construction Grammar literature that constructions form a hierarchy; Croft and Cruse (2004: 262), for example, refer to constructions as a ‘structured inventory’ which can be represented as ‘a taxonomic network’. Initially in this project the aim was to identify verb-based constructions (phase 1) and subsequently to derive system networks (phase 2). It quickly became apparent, however, that the system network was a rational way to conceptualise the taxonomy of the constructions using any pattern. The paper provides illustrations of the system networks proposed by the project.

The system networks also make it possible to specify ‘mid-point’ constructions as well as ‘end-point’ constructions. For example, the ‘V that’ pattern is used in 20 end-point constructions, each with a fairly specific meaning (‘say that’, ‘predict that’, ‘promise that’, ‘remember that’, ‘accept that’, ‘arrange that’ etc). At a mid-point, more abstract constructions can be proposed: ‘the V that communicate information construction’; ‘the V that communicate future action construction’; ‘the V that cognise information construction’; ‘the V that cause event construction’.

The system networks also make it easier to specify the general semantic fields that constructions belong to. Work on these fields is ongoing, but the paper will give examples such as Communication and Cognition. Identifying such fields makes it possible to be consistent in the identification of the participant roles in each construction. This in turn will be crucial in the next phase of the project, where system networks with semantic fields as the entry-point, and constructions as the end-point, will be derived.


Croft, W. and Cruse, D.A. (2004). Cognitive Linguistics. Cambridge University Press.

Hanks, P. 2013. Lexical Analysis: Norms and Exploitations. MIT Press.

Hunston, S. 2022. The Other Grammarian’s Dream: Constructions as the most delicate grammar. Paper given at LxGr2022.

Hunston, S. and Francis, G. 2000. Pattern Grammar: a corpus-driven approach to the lexical grammar of English. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Perek, F. and Patten, A. 2019. Towards an English constructicon using patterns and frames. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 24(3): 354-384.


Saturday 8 July 2023


Gaëtanelle Gilquin (Université catholique de Louvain)

Construction grammar and lexico-grammar, and why they matter to each other

In construction grammar (CxG), no distinction is made between linguistic phenomena traditionally described as lexical (e.g. idioms) and linguistic phenomena traditionally described as grammatical (e.g. phrasal patterns). They are all considered instances of constructions, in the sense of form-meaning pairings. This makes CxG an intrinsically suitable framework for the study of lexico-grammar. If we combine CxG with corpus linguistics, which is known for its close links with lexico-grammar, we are bound to be well-equipped to deal with lexico-grammatical features.

This presentation will show how the study of constructions such as causative and passive constructions in English can benefit from a CxG- and corpus-based approach which takes lexico-grammatical aspects into account. This starts with the extraction of the constructions, thanks to strategies which make it possible to retrieve more peripheral instances of a construction (e.g. pseudo-passives with an adjectival form like BE interested). This continues with the analysis, by means of techniques that seek to uncover the phraseological patterns of constructions, in particular collostructional analysis. This technique helps provide better descriptions of the constructions, including in an L1-L2 comparative perspective (showing, for example, that native writers prefer verbs such as seem or appear in the [X make Y Vinf] causative construction, whereas EFL learners prefer be and become). Finally, a CxG- and corpus-based approach centred around lexico-grammar can lead to pedagogical materials or methods that favour the production of more idiomatic constructions. Data-driven learning, for example, could be used in the classroom to help students notice the lexico-grammatical features of constructions. These different steps, from data extraction to pedagogical applications, will illustrate the main advantages of corpus approaches to lexico-grammar anchored in CxG.