Surface generalizations: An alternative to alternations

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Since the earliest days of generative grammar, there has existed a strong tendency to consider one argument structure construction in relation to a particular rough paraphrase. Initially this was a result of the emphasis on transformations that derived one pattern from another. While today there exist many non-derivational theories for which this motivation no longer exists, the traditional outlook has not completely lost its grip, as can be seen from continuing focus on partial or incomplete generalizations such as the “dative” construction or the “locative” alternation. This article argues that it is profitable to look beyond alternations and to consider each surface pattern on its own terms. Differences among instances of the same surface pattern are often most naturally attributed directly to the different verbs and arguments involved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-356
Number of pages30
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


  • adjuncts
  • alternations
  • argument structure
  • constructions


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