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Constructional tolerance

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Abstract

The present paper investigates the question whether different languages can be categorized into ‘constructionally tolerant’ languages, which grant speakers considerable freedom to combine syntactic constructions with lexical items in non-conventional ways, and ‘valency-driven’ languages, which impose stronger restrictions on the way in which constructions and lexical items can be combined. The idea of such a typological distinction is sketched for instance by Rostila (2014). In order to explore possible effects of constructional tolerance, a grammaticality judgment task is administered to speakers of English and French, which are two languages that differ with regard to this phenomenon: English verbs can be used across different argument structure constructions with relative ease, French verbs are more constrained. Both populations of speakers are exposed to stimuli sentences of varying creativity in a second language, namely German. The paper advances the constructional tolerance hypothesis, which states that speakers of a constructionally tolerant language should judge non-conventional examples in an L2 with more lenience than speakers of a valency-driven language. The experimental results are in line with this hypothesis, but they also suggest that grammaticality judgments are influenced by the availability of a productive L1 construction that shows functional overlap.

References

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