Revisiting Language Variation and Change: Looking at Metalinguistic Categories Through a Usage-Based Lens

A special issue of Languages (ISSN 2226-471X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 September 2020) | Viewed by 32083

Special Issue Editors


E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Spanish and Portuguese Department, University of Colorado, McKenna Languages Building, 278 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
Interests: usage-based phonology; language variation and change; the Spanish of New Mexico

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Spanish and Portuguese Department, University of Colorado, McKenna Languages Building, 278 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA
Interests: functional syntax; usage-based approaches; language variation and change

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Analyses of language variation and change predominate within usage-based frameworks and contribute crucially to an understanding of the emergence and evolution of linguistic structure. Such works have afforded us key insights into the relationships between language, usage and cognition (Bybee 2010). Yet, most usage-based linguists approach their research questions relying upon linguistic constructs (linguistic units, word classes, grammatical categories, grammatical relations and constructions) identified and described prior to the advent of usage-based linguistics. The purpose of this special issue is to gather bottom-up usage-based approaches to language that critically examine how the metalanguage we have inherited from traditional and structuralist approaches to language contributes to our knowledge of processes of language variation and change. We invite papers that employ a usage-based and/or variationist framework and that address one or more of the following questions:

  • How can we account for traditional linguistic categories and constructions from a usage-based perspective? How do linguistic categories and constructions emerge from local usage-patterns (Thompson 2019)?
  • How can fine-grained analyses from a usage-based perspective contribute to a deeper knowledge of traditional linguistic categories and constructions? Are these categories adequate enough to account for emergent grammars? Do usage-based approaches suggest that some of these categories actually subsume usage-patterns and constructions that are, in fact, quite different (Carvalho, Orozco and Shin eds. 2015 and works therein)?
  • How does the study of usage-patterns allow us to view uniformly linguistic categories and constructions that have been traditionally described as binary opposites (Torres Cacoullos and Travis 2019)?
  • Can other forces and/or categories account for processes of language variation and change more effectively than the traditional metalinguistic categories (Brown and Raymond 2012)? What other categories and/or constructions can be identified by usage-based approaches that have not been described in other linguistic frameworks (Hopper 2002; Rivas 2016)?
  • What insights do we gain from considering exemplar models against stored abstractions in usage-based approaches to first, second, and heritage language acquisition and learning (e.g., Tomasello 2009, Ambridge 2018, Wulff & Ellis 2018)?

References

Ambridge, B. (2018). Against stored abstractions: A radical exemplar model of language acquisition. First Language, 0142723719869731.

Brown, E. L., & Raymond, W. D. (2012). How discourse context shapes the lexicon: Explaining the distribution of Spanish f-/h‑words. Diachronica29(2), 139-161.

Bybee, J. (2010). Language, usage and cognition. Cambridge University Press.

Carvalho, A. M., Orozco, R., & Shin, N. L. (Eds.). (2015). Subject pronoun expression in Spanish: A cross-dialectal perspective. Georgetown University Press.

Hopper, P. J. (2002). Hendiadys and auxiliation in English. Complex sentences in grammar and discourse: essays in honor of Sandra A. Thompson. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 145-173.

Rivas, J. (2016). Verb–object compounds with Spanish dar ‘give’: an emergent gustar ‘like’-type construction. Word62(1), 1-21.

Thompson, S. A. (2019). Understanding ‘clause’as an emergent ‘unit’in everyday conversation. Studies in Language. International Journal sponsored by the Foundation “Foundations of Language”43(2), 254-280.

Tomasello, M. (2009). Constructing a language. A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Torres Cacoullos, R. & Travis, C. E. (2019). Variationist typology: Shared probabilistic constraints across (non-) null subject languages. Linguistics57(3), 653-692.

Wulff, S., & Ellis, N. C. (2018). Usage-based approaches to second language acquisition (Vol. 54, pp. 37-56). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Dr. Esther L. Brown
Dr. Javier Rivas
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Languages is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • constructions
  • grammatical categories
  • grammatical relations
  • language variation
  • language change
  • linguistic units
  • usage-based linguistics
  • variationist analyses
  • word classes

Published Papers (9 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

17 pages, 705 KiB  
Article
Interaction and Grammar: Predicative Adjective Constructions in English Conversation
by Joan Bybee and Sandra A. Thompson
Languages 2022, 7(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages7010002 - 27 Dec 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3684
Abstract
This article studies the function of Copular Predicate Constructions in everyday English conversation. We compare predicate adjective constructions (PA) and constructions with a predicate nominal containing an adjective (PAN). We ask whether the attributive function of the adjective or the presence of a [...] Read more.
This article studies the function of Copular Predicate Constructions in everyday English conversation. We compare predicate adjective constructions (PA) and constructions with a predicate nominal containing an adjective (PAN). We ask whether the attributive function of the adjective or the presence of a noun in the PAN leads to a difference in function in the two constructions. We propose that in most cases the adjective determines the function of the construction, leading to many parallels in usage between the PA and PAN constructions. A comparison with predicate nominal constructions (PN), in contrast, shows that not including an adjective in the constructions leads to a different set of meanings and implications. The conversational usage of these constructions provides evidence for a partial correspondence of form to function: Copular Predicate Constructions often constitute a complete turn in conversation, and if not a full turn, form their own prosodic units. Other properties of these constructions—the definiteness of the NP and the presence or absence of a N—correspond to different interactional work. A comparison of all three constructions shows that the adjective plays a determining interactional role, despite differences in syntactic configuration. Full article
18 pages, 1791 KiB  
Article
Categories and Frequency: Cognition Verbs in Spanish Subject Expression
by Catherine E. Travis and Rena Torres Cacoullos
Languages 2021, 6(3), 126; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages6030126 - 27 Jul 2021
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 2724
Abstract
Are semantic classes of verbs genuine or do they merely mask idiosyncrasies of frequent verbs? Here, we examine the interplay between semantic classes and frequent verb-form combinations, providing new evidence from variation patterns in spontaneous speech that linguistic categories are centered on high [...] Read more.
Are semantic classes of verbs genuine or do they merely mask idiosyncrasies of frequent verbs? Here, we examine the interplay between semantic classes and frequent verb-form combinations, providing new evidence from variation patterns in spontaneous speech that linguistic categories are centered on high frequency members to which other members are similar. We offer an account of the well-known favoring effect of cognition verbs on Spanish subject pronoun expression by considering the role of high-frequency verbs (e.g., creer ‘think’ and saber ‘know’) and particular expressions ((yo) creo ‘I think’, (yo) no sé ‘I don’t know’). Analysis of variation in nearly 3000 tokens of unexpressed and pronominal subjects in conversational data replicates well-established predictors, but highlights that the cognition verb effect is really one of 1sg cognition verbs. In addition, particular expressions stand out for their high frequency relative to their component parts (for (yo) creo, proportion of lexical type, and proportion of pronoun). Further analysis of 1sg verbs with frequent expressions as fixed effects reveals shared patterns with other cognition verbs, including an association with non-coreferential contexts. Thus, classes can be identified by variation constraints and contextual distributions that are shared among class members and are measurably different from those of the more general variable structure. Cognition verbs in variable Spanish subject expression form a class anchored in lexically particular constructions. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

30 pages, 813 KiB  
Article
A Variationist Study of Subject Pronoun Expression in Medellín, Colombia
by Rafael Orozco and Luz Marcela Hurtado
Languages 2021, 6(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages6010005 - 28 Dec 2020
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 6786
Abstract
This variationist study of subject pronoun expression (SPE) in Medellín, Colombia uses multivariate regressions to probe the effects of ten predictors on 4623 tokens from the Proyecto para el Estudio Sociolingüístico del Español de España y de América (PRESEEA) corpus. We implement analytical [...] Read more.
This variationist study of subject pronoun expression (SPE) in Medellín, Colombia uses multivariate regressions to probe the effects of ten predictors on 4623 tokens from the Proyecto para el Estudio Sociolingüístico del Español de España y de América (PRESEEA) corpus. We implement analytical innovations by exploring transitivity and the lexical effect of the verb, which we analyze by testing infinitives and subject pronoun + verb collocations, respectively, as standalone, random-effect factors. Our results reveal the highest pronominal rate (28%) found in a mainland Spanish-speaking community. Additionally, we uncover that pronominal rates increase with age, a finding which appears to have cognitive implications. The internal conditioning contributes to pronombrista studies by showing the effects of discourse type and transitivity. Narratives and opinion statements favor overt subjects, but statements indicating routine activities favor null subjects. Whereas unergative verbs promote overt subjects, reflexive verbs favor null subjects. The lexical effect of the verb reveals opposing tendencies between verbs in the same category as well as within different collocations of the same verb, providing more definitive answers than the semantically guided approaches used for the last four decades and showing that verb groupings do not constitute functional categories with regard to SPE. Overall, this study contributes to expand our baseline knowledge of SPE in mainland Latin American communities and opens interesting research avenues. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

22 pages, 1867 KiB  
Article
Priming as a Diagnostic of Grammatical Constructions: Second-Person Singular in Chilean Spanish
by Matthew Callaghan and Catherine E. Travis
Languages 2021, 6(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages6010001 - 22 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2554
Abstract
Structural priming has been described as a measure of association between constructions. Here, we apply priming as a diagnostic to assess the status of the Chilean second-person singular (2sg) voseo, which exists in variation with the more standard tuteo. Despite being [...] Read more.
Structural priming has been described as a measure of association between constructions. Here, we apply priming as a diagnostic to assess the status of the Chilean second-person singular (2sg) voseo, which exists in variation with the more standard tuteo. Despite being the majority variant in informal interactions, Chileans are reported to have little metalinguistic awareness of voseo and they avoid the vos pronoun, in some cases using the pronoun with voseo verb forms, leading to proposals that tuteo and voseo are conflated into a single mixed form. The patterning for priming, however, indicates otherwise. Analyses of some 2000 2sg familiar tokens from a corpus of conversational Chilean Spanish reveal that a previous tuteo or voseo favors the repetition of that same form, indicating that speakers do treat these forms as distinct. We also observe that invariable forms with historically tuteo morphology are associated with neither voseo nor tuteo, while the invariable voseo discourse marker cachái ‘you know’ retains a weak association with voseo. Furthermore, while tuteo is favored with a subject pronoun, this effect does not override the priming effect, evidence that, even with a pronoun, voseo and tuteo are distinct constructions in speakers’ representations. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

22 pages, 701 KiB  
Article
Ideas Buenas o Buenas Ideas: Phonological, Semantic, and Frequency Effects on Variable Adjective Ordering in Rioplatense Spanish
by Matthew Kanwit and Virginia Terán
Languages 2020, 5(4), 65; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages5040065 - 23 Nov 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2974
Abstract
Although linguistic research has often focused on one domain (e.g., as influenced by generative prioritization of the Autonomy of Syntax), critical findings have been uncovered by exploring the interaction of multiple domains (e.g., the link between morphological status and lateralization of /ɾ/; the [...] Read more.
Although linguistic research has often focused on one domain (e.g., as influenced by generative prioritization of the Autonomy of Syntax), critical findings have been uncovered by exploring the interaction of multiple domains (e.g., the link between morphological status and lateralization of /ɾ/; the syntactic–pragmatic interface’s constraints on subject expression). The position of adjectives relative to the nouns they modify is a good test case in this discussion because multiple areas of the grammar are implicated, including syntax, phonology, and semantics. Moreover, research on this structure has yielded small cells, which prevented the use of statistical tests to convey the relative importance of multiple factors. Consequently, our study used a controlled, 24-item contextualized preference task to assess the roles of semantics (i.e., adjective class), phonology (i.e., noun–adjective syllable length differences), and lexical frequency on variable adjective ordering for 100 speakers of rioplatense Argentinean Spanish. Mixed-effects regression revealed that each factor was significant, with shorter, high-frequency, evaluative adjectives most favoring pre-position. Individual adjective analysis confirmed the greater effect of lexical frequency than semantic class, with additional corpora analyses further elucidating these trends. The study adds to the growing body of research on the role of factors across linguistic domains, while arguing for the importance of the relative frequency of adjective–noun collocations and complementing recent research on lexical effects. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

23 pages, 4470 KiB  
Article
The Effect of Forms’ Ratio of Conditioning on Word-Final /s/ Voicing in Mexican Spanish
by Earl Kjar Brown
Languages 2020, 5(4), 61; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages5040061 - 16 Nov 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2288
Abstract
There is mounting evidence that words that occur proportionately more often in contexts that condition a phonetically-motivated sound change end up changing more rapidly than other words. Support has been found in at least modern-day Spanish, Medieval Spanish, bilingual English-Spanish, and modern-day English. [...] Read more.
There is mounting evidence that words that occur proportionately more often in contexts that condition a phonetically-motivated sound change end up changing more rapidly than other words. Support has been found in at least modern-day Spanish, Medieval Spanish, bilingual English-Spanish, and modern-day English. This study tests whether there is support for this idea with regards to the variable voicing of word-final /s/ in Spanish. An analysis of 1431 tokens of word-final /s/ spoken by 15 female speakers of Mexican Spanish living in Salinas, California, USA is performed. The response variable is the percentage of the /s/ segment that is voiced, and the effect of a handful of predictor variables shown in the literature to condition /s/ voicing is investigated. The variable of interest is forms’ ratio of conditioning (FRC), or the proportion of times with which word types occur in the context that conditions voicing of word-final /s/. The results of a series of 40 beta regression models indicate that FRC significantly conditions the percentage of voicing of word-final /s/ in these data. Also, the effect of manipulating two aspects of FRC operationalization is analyzed. This study adds to the growing body of literature documenting the importance of cumulative contextual information in the mental representation of words. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

18 pages, 1414 KiB  
Article
The Emergence of Second Language Categorisation of the English Article Construction
by Helen Zhao
Languages 2020, 5(4), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages5040054 - 7 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2938
Abstract
This study examines the emergent cognitive categorisation of the English article construction among second language (L2) learners. One hundred and fourteen Mandarin-L1 learners of English, divided into two L2 proficiency levels (low-to-intermediate and advanced), were measured by a computer-based cloze test for the [...] Read more.
This study examines the emergent cognitive categorisation of the English article construction among second language (L2) learners. One hundred and fourteen Mandarin-L1 learners of English, divided into two L2 proficiency levels (low-to-intermediate and advanced), were measured by a computer-based cloze test for the accuracy and response time of appropriate use of English articles in sentential contexts. Results showed that when learners acquired the polysemous English article construction they demonstrated stronger competence in differentiating individual form-function mappings in the article construction. L2 learners’ patterns of article construction usage were shaped by semantic functions. Learners performed better on the definiteness category than on the non-definiteness categories, suggesting that learners were sensitive to the prototypicality of nominal grounding. Advanced learners demonstrated an increased sensitivity to semantic idiosyncrasy, but they lacked contextualised constructional knowledge. Competition among the functional categories and restructuring of functional categories are important ways of regularization that learners go through to acquire semantically complex systems such as articles. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

17 pages, 807 KiB  
Article
The Acquisition of Preposition + Article Contractions in L3 Portuguese among Different L1-Speaking Learners: A Variationist Approach
by Adriana Picoral and Ana Maria Carvalho
Languages 2020, 5(4), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages5040045 - 27 Oct 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2937
Abstract
This paper sheds light on the paths of third language (L3) acquisition of Portuguese by Spanish–English speakers whose first language is Spanish (L1 Spanish), English (L1 English), or both in the case of heritage speakers of Spanish (HL). Specifically, it looks at the [...] Read more.
This paper sheds light on the paths of third language (L3) acquisition of Portuguese by Spanish–English speakers whose first language is Spanish (L1 Spanish), English (L1 English), or both in the case of heritage speakers of Spanish (HL). Specifically, it looks at the gradual acquisition of a categorical rule in Portuguese, where some prepositions are invariably contracted with the determiner that follows them. Based on a corpus of 1910 written assignments by Portuguese L3 learners, we extracted 21,879 tokens in obligatory contraction contexts and submitted them to a multivariate analysis. This analysis allowed for the investigation of the impact of linguistic (type of preposition and definite article number and gender) and extra-linguistic factors (course level and learner’s language background), with logistic regression modeling with sum contrasts and individual as a random effect. While results point to some clear similarities across the three language groups—all learners acquired the contractions in a u-shaped progression and used more contractions with the a preposition and fewer with the por preposition—participants acquire contractions at a higher rate when the article is singular than when it is plural, and in the case of HL speakers, more so when the article is masculine than when it is feminine. These results confirm the facilitatory role of a previously acquired language (i.e., Spanish) that is typologically similar to the target language (i.e., Portuguese) in transfer patterns during L3 acquisition. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

26 pages, 4883 KiB  
Article
A Usage-Based Perspective on Spanish Variable Clitic Placement
by Pablo E. Requena
Languages 2020, 5(3), 33; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages5030033 - 7 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3602
Abstract
This study provides a usage-based analysis of Spanish Variable Clitic Placement (VCP). A variationist analysis of VCP in spoken Argentine Spanish indicates that VCP grammar is constrained by lexical (finite verb) and semantic (animacy) factors. Considering the finite effect, the study focuses on [...] Read more.
This study provides a usage-based analysis of Spanish Variable Clitic Placement (VCP). A variationist analysis of VCP in spoken Argentine Spanish indicates that VCP grammar is constrained by lexical (finite verb) and semantic (animacy) factors. Considering the finite effect, the study focuses on usage-based accounts for the gradience attested across finite verb constructions. Grammaticalized meaning and increased frequency tend to account for VCP in general. However, one [tener que + infinitive] construction is found exceptional in that it favors enclisis despite its grammaticalized meaning of obligation and its high frequency of use. Data from a larger corpus indicate that the [tener que + infinitive] construction lacks unithood, signaling great analyzability of its component elements. Through an exemplar analysis, the [haber que ‘must’ + infinitive] construction that categorically takes enclisis and which is strongly linked to [tenerque + infinitive] diachronically, semantically, and structurally emerges as a likely analogical model for VCP with tener que, pushing tener que towards enclisis. This study not only illustrates how usage-based linguistics can capture VCP more generally, but also how this framework provides powerful tools to discover the constraints on VCP in naturalistic use in order to account for individual construction behavior. Full article
Show Figures

Figure 1

Back to TopTop