Valency coercion phenomena arise when constructions and verbs are combined in novel and flexible ways. This flexibility is one of the main supporting of argument constructions as structural units of language, with abstract and independent semantics that dynamically interact with the semantics of the main verb (Goldberg, 1995; Michaelis, 2005; Pustejovsky et al., 2010; Lauwers and Willems, 2011; Perek, 2015). Despite the pivotal role of coercion in construction grammar, however, little research has been done outside the domain of English (Gonzalvez-Garcia, 2007; Boas and Gonzalvez-Garcıa, 2014; Booji and Audring, 2015), and – to our knowledge – no attempt has been previously made to analyse constructional flexibility in Italian. We propose the results of an empirical study on Italian valency coercion, which aims to contribute both to a still lacking constructionist description of Italian and to a cross-linguistic debate on the cognitive reality of constructions. The first part of the research was carried out by means of an acceptability rating test based on Perek and Hilpert (2014): the experiment is structured around 9 argument structure constructions of Italian; a set of 21 sentences was created for each construction, divided in 3 experimental conditions: grammatical, coercion, impossible. Between conditions, sentences differ only in their verb, to insert as little variation as possible. 1) a. Gianni ha detto che verrà domani (Gianni said that he will come tomorrow) b. Gianni ha fischiettato che verrà domani (Gianni whistled that he will come tomorrow) c. Gianni ha cucinato che verrà domani (Gianni cooked that he will come tomorrow) 120 Italian native speakers from three age groups were tested: adolescents, young adults (18 - 35 years old), and adults (over 40). The data was analysed both with statistical tests and with linear mixed effect modelling. Results show coercion as an “intermediate” condition, significantly different from both grammatical and ungrammatical sentences. Moreover, the recognition of coercion appears to vary with age, as older speakers tended to polarise their answers towards the extremities of the scale (1 or 7). The data also showed inter-construction variability. Constructions appeared to have different degrees of flexibility, that we are addressing in the second part of the study. We are constructing a corpus-based distributional model to operationalize the notion of (partial) productivity of constructions (Barðdal, 2008; Zeschel, 2015). Our assumption is that coercion mechanisms are influenced both by the productivity of the construction and by the distance between source and target meaning of the verb embedded in the creative structure (Barak and Goldberg, 2017; Perek and Goldberg, 2017). We measure the latter by representing construction meaning with distributional vectors trained on a large Italian corpus, following the approach in Lebani and Lenci (2017). As data, we matched syntactic frames automatically extracted from the Universal Dependency Italian treebank (Rambelli et al., 2016) to our constructions and identified the more frequent verbs. The results of the second part of the study, which are still being processed, will provide distributional evidence to shed new light on Italian constructions’ flexibility.
|Titolo:||Coercing Italian: Valency Coercion in a Romance Language|
BUSSO, LUCIA (Primo)
|Anno del prodotto:||2018|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||4.2 Abstract in Atti di convegno|