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Variation, contact, and modal constructions in English

University of Paris, July 8, 2022

Paper abstracts can be downloaded form the following page :

Over the past 50 years, modality has been both a highly fruitful and a notoriously difficult topic in linguistics (Palmer 1986, Nuyts & van der Auwera 2018), from frameworks of formal semantics in the 1970s (e.g. Kratzer 1977) to grammaticalization theories (cf. Bybee et. Al 1991, Givón 1994, Nuyts 2000, Narrog 2005, among others) and present-day theories of Construction Grammar (CxG), where it has garnered an increasing amount of interest (Cappelle & Depraetere 2016). As a domain of meaning and cognitive representation, modality is most typically studied in semantics and pragmatics, one central question being the precise role of the former and the latter in the expression and processing of modal meaning (Leclercq 2018; Depraetere, Cappelle & Hilpert 2021). Furthermore, the uniform mapping of meaning to form in the expression of modality has been a long-standing issue in cross-linguistic and typological studies, with several notable attempts such as van der Auwera & Plungian (1998).

This workshop aims to contribute to studies of modality in English by taking into account the notion of variation in modal constructions, which has received relatively little attention in past research. As a crucial condition for the process of linguistic change, variation is an important characteristic to model in diachronic approaches to modal constructions, which is a recent development in the framework of Construction Grammar (Hilpert, Cappelle & Depraetere 2021). From a synchronic perspective, further work is needed in the study of social variation in the use of modal constructions, which has always been of interest for sociolinguists and dialectologists (e.g. Trousdale 2000; Smith et al. 2019), but would also be desirable for Construction Grammarians, by warranting a more precise demarcation of semantic, pragmatic, and social meaning, their respective roles in the structure of a construction, and the consequences of social meaning for usage-based models of constructions and networks of constructions (Ostman & Trousdale 2013).

This workshop also deals with the perspective that CxG can bring to contact-language situations involving English, when the lexicon is derived from one language and the syntax from another. Indeed, CxG has rarely been applied to contact data in the literature – exceptions being Pietsch 2010, Hölder 2014 and Ziegeler 2015. One important research question is how the form-meaning relationship works in contact-situations where mixed construction inventories are involved. Different theories have been proposed in the past decades to account for such situations: from the concepts of ‘convergence’, or pattern replication (Matras and Sakel 2007), to contact-grammaticalization (Heine & Kuteva 2003, 2005 and Ziegeler 2014, 2017), but further research applying CxG to modality in contact-language situation

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