Nonlocality in Constructions

Manfred Sailer Universität Göttingen It is one of the basic assumptions of Construction Grammar (CxG) that a construction may span over more than a local tree. This assumption has been challenged recently in Sign-Based Construction Grammar (SBCG, Sag 2007, to appear), which is intended as a synthesis of Berkeley-style CxG and Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG). I will show that the locality assumptions of SBCG are empirically problematic. My argument is based on two sets of data: first, on idioms with subject-oriented possessives as in (1), and second, on some of the phrasal constructions that have been discussed in many CxG publications as those in (2).

(1) a. cook one's goose, loose one's marbles b. (escape) by the skin of one's teeth; (be) in one of one's moods

(2) a. What’s X doing Y: What’s it doing raining again? b. The X-er the Y-er: The more they train, the faster they run. c. no matter: No matter what the problem, Pat will find a solution

While the data in (1a) are mentioned in Sag (2007, to appear) in support of the locality assumptions of SBCG, the possessives in (1b) are too deeply embedded to be locally accessible for the subject of the clause.

A similar argument can be constructed for the data in (2). The constructional properties of (2a) may be captured in the lexical entry of a special version of the copula “be”. The constructions in (2b,c) , however, contain more than one idiosyncratic local tree, which makes it hard to encode them in SBCG.

I will sketch how the above-mentioned aspects of nonlocality can be described in an alternative approach to constructions in HPSG.

Sag, Ivan A. 2007: Sign-Based Construction Grammar. Manuskript. Stanford University. August 2007.

Sag, Ivan A. to appear. Feature Geometry and Predictions of Locality. In Greville Corbett and Anna Kibort (eds.), Proceedings of the Workshop on Features. Oxford: Oxford University Press.