Publication details [#11603]

Zhang, Ren. 2006. Symbolic flexibility and argument structure variation. Linguistics 44 (4) : 689–720. 32 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language


Much work on the syntax-semantics interface has focused on verb frame alternations, the well-documented phenomenon that a verb is typically found in a variety of syntactic contexts. On the other hand, cognitive linguists have often focused on the flexibility of categories other than verbs in relation to such issues as metaphor, metonymy and polysemy. Drawing on the usage-based orientation of cognitive grammar, this article argues for a unified treatment of variation in the use of nouns and verbs under the general concept of symbolic flexibility. In this approach, typical cases of nominal metonymy (e.g., read Langacker) and unconventional verb use (e.g., Frank sneezed the napkin off the table) are both creative facets of a usage event that are rich in semantic value, the salient elements of which consist of both the conventional meaning and the contextual understanding of the noun or the verb. In addition, nominal metonymy and unconventional verb use are aspects of usage events that are simultaneously categorized by their conventional counterparts as well as their linguistic context in the form of constructional schemas. The network of categorizing relationships that results accounts for the semantic character of such usages as well as variation in argument expression associated with verbs. This article provides arguments against certain versions of construction grammar (e.g., Goldberg 1995) that treats verb meaning as invariant across syntactic patterns. Adapted from the source document. (LLBA, Accession Number 200701126, (c) CSA [2007]. All rights reserved.)