The inchoative construction

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This article provides an analysis of English inchoative structures within the framework of a functionally-based conception of language and, specifically, of the lexicon. This theoretical framework the Lexical Constructional Model (LCM henceforth) proposes a lexical component composed of two central elements: a repository of lexical units grouped into lexical classes, which are established on the basis of the commonality of meaning of predicates, and a catalogue of constructions, which is also devised as having internal organization. The LCM also postulates that lexical-constructional subsumption is subject to the conditions imposed on the semantic compatibility between predicates and constructions. Conditions invoke higher level cognitive mechanisms like metonymy and metaphor and lower-level semantic restrictions affecting event or argument structure in semantic representations. The analysis of lexical subsumption within the inchoative construction will be subject to two types of restrictions: firstly, there is an external constraint affecting the unification of causative predicates and inchoative structures. This external constraint is based on a high-level metonymic process which has been labelled <sc>process for action</sc>: an action is treated as if it were a process that in turn stands for the action. Secondly, unification is conditioned by some internal constraints imposed upon the semantic structure of predicates. Among these there are also two subtypes: (1) constraints on the event structure of predicates, which make reference to the codification of telicity and causativity in the case of causative/inchoative verbs; (2) constraints on the arguments of lexical templates, among which the agent-causer blocking and the cause expletivization constraints play a crucial role. The analysis of these constraints will in fact reveal the feasibility and explanatory potential of the LCM for meaning construction.


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