The nice-of-you construction and its fragments

Goldberg AE, Herbst T (2021)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2021


Book Volume: 59

Pages Range: 285-318

Journal Issue: 1

DOI: 10.1515/ling-2020-0274


This article argues that a usage-based construction (a conventional pairing of form and function) is required to account for a certain pattern of English exemplified by e.g., it's nice of you to read this. Contemporary corpus and survey data reveal that the construction is strongly associated with certain adjectives (e.g., nice, good) over others, while diachronic data demonstrate that the construction's overall frequency has systematically waxed and waned over the past century. The construction's unique function - namely to concisely convey a judgment regarding how an action reflects on the agent of the action - enables us to predict many observations about its distribution without stipulation. These include restrictions on the interpretation of adjectives that occur in the construction, its infinitive complement, the modal verbs that may appear in it and its ability to be embedded. We further observe that certain conventional fragments of the construction evoke the semantics of the entire construction. Finally, we situate the construction within a network of related constructions, as part of a speaker's "construct-i-con".

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Goldberg, A.E., & Herbst, T. (2021). The nice-of-you construction and its fragments. Linguistics, 59(1), 285-318.


Goldberg, Adele E., and Thomas Herbst. "The nice-of-you construction and its fragments." Linguistics 59.1 (2021): 285-318.

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