Project 3: Form and meaning as factors in the identification and learning of constructional slots – English phrasal verbs and verb-preposition combinations (GRK 2839 Project 3)

Third Party Funds Group - Sub project

Acronym: GRK 2839 Project 3

Start date : 01.10.2022

End date : 30.09.2027

Overall project details

Overall project

GRK 2839: Die Konstruktionsgrammatische Galaxis

Project details

Scientific Abstract

While there is considerable evidence to support the claim that linguistic knowledge ‘exists’ in the
mind in the form of constructions (as defined in CxG- and usage-based approaches) (Casenhiser
& Goldberg 2005; Goldberg 2019; Dąbrowska & Lieven 2005), there is comparatively little
research on how particular constructions are stored and processed in the brain. Cappelle, Shtyrov
and Pulvermüller (2010) have argued on the basis of mismatch negativity that phrasal verbs (look
up) are processed in the brain like single lexemes and expressed a warning “against a total
abolition of a lexicon-syntax distinction” (Pulvermüller, Cappelle & Shtyrow 2013: 415). This
project aims to follow up this issue, which is central to the design of a model of constructional
space, by obtaining fMRI, MEG and EEG data to investigate whether phrasal verbs (as idiomatic
combinations) are exceptional in this respect or whether similar effects can be found in other
constructions containing lexical elements – e.g. argument structure constructions with prepositions (decide on) or clauses (say that ..., aim to do) and how these compare with
constructions without such lexical elements such as the ditransitive construction (X VERB Y Z).
The results of this research will make a valuable contribution to GRQ1 in that they will provide
evidence to resolve the issue of how to delimit particular constructions, slot-fillers of constructions
and the nature of chunks with respect to purely lexical associations and chunks with more
schematic slots. The analysis will comprise a number of behavioural experiments such as eyetracking
and neurolinguistic measurements. The first task of the project will consist in designing
(a) a text that embeds a sufficiently large number of tokens of the types of constructions to be
explored in a kind of natural narrative as well as (b) a set of isolated test sentences highlighting
the same phenomena. Candidates for test items will be identified by means of cluster and
frequency analyses of corpora of present-day English. In a second phase, eye-tracking and brain
activity measurements will be carried out with ca. 50 native speakers of English in order to explore
(i) whether the reactions to phrasal verbs in the test battery confirm the results of P/C/S 2013,
and (ii) to what extent they differ from measurements for the other types of constructions
By including running text into the research design, we deliberately go beyond previous research
to ensure that subjects’ performance will be studied in a more natural setting than is possible by
isolated sentences. This part of the research will be based on methodology developed at FAU
enabling multi-modal neuroimaging measurements during continuous speech perception
(Schilling et al 2021) and multivariate cluster analysis of the resulting spatio-temporal neural
activation patterns (Kriegeskorte, Mur, & Bandettini 2008; Krauss et al 2018; Schilling et al 2021).


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Funding Source