The English NPN construction, exemplified by construction after construction, is productive with five prepositions—by, for, to, after, and upon—with a variety of meanings, including succession, juxtaposition, and comparison; it also has numerous idiomatic cases. This mixture of regularity and idiosyncrasy lends itself to an account in the spirit of construction grammar, in which the lexicon includes specified syntactic structures matched with meanings. The internal syntactic structure of NPN violates standard principles of phrase structure, and the required identity of the two nouns (in most cases) presents descriptive difficulties. Furthermore, when NPN appears in NP positions, it can take normal NP complements and modifiers, and it has quantificational semantics despite the absence of a lexical quantifier. These peculiarities collectively present interesting challenges to linguistic theory. The best hope lies in a theory of grammar that (i) recognizes meaningful constructions as theoretical entities; (ii) recognizes a continuum of regularity between words and rules; and (iii) recognizes the autonomy of syntax from semantics and vice versa.
Spears 1998 discusses a use of the word ass in African American English (AAE) in sentences like They done arrested her stupid ass and I’m gonna sue her ass. We refer to DPs like her stupid ass generically as the ACC (ass CAMOUFLAGE CONSTRUCTION), and we view the ACC as an instance of a universal grammatical phenomenon we call CAMOUFLAGE. The ACC is also attested in non- AAE dialects of American English (Beavers & Koontz-Garboden 2006a).
For certain syntactic properties, the possessor of the ACC behaves as if it were external to the larger DP (e.g. binding, control, selection); for others, it behaves as if it were internal to the larger DP (e.g. finite verb agreement, traditional constituent-structure tests). To account for this dual behavior, we propose that the ACC possessor DP originates in a position external to the ACC, and moves into its possessor position.
We discuss the implications of our analysis for other areas of AAE syntax, including the resumptive-with construction, a previously undocumented grammatical phenomenon, and the use of self in various constructions, which we suggest are illuminated by the notion camouflage. We briefly consider arguable instances of camouflage crosslinguistically in languages such as Georgian, French, the Mayan languages K’ekchi and Tzotzil, and Yoruba. Genuine similarities between the ACC and these other constructions support our perspective on the ACC.
This article examines several grammatical developments that have received relatively little attention, but that may be more pervasive than previously recognized. They involve the functional extension of markers of grammatical dependency from sentence-level syntax into larger discourse and pragmatic domains. Such developments are first illustrated with material from Navajo and Central Alaskan Yup’ik, then surveyed more briefly in several other unrelated languages. In some cases, secondary effects of such changes can reshape basic clause structure. An awareness of these processes can accordingly aid in understandingcertain recurringbut hitherto unexplained arrays of basic morphological and syntactic patterns, exemplified here with cases of homophonous grammatical markers and of ergative/accusative splits. Like developments described by Gildea (1997, 1998) and Evans (2007), they involve the use of dependent clauses as independent sentences, but the processes described here differ from those in both the mechanisms at work and their results.
A widely held position in the literature on verbal meaning is that the lexical-semantic representation of verbsinvolvescomplex event structureswith semantic primitiveslike CAUSE and BECOME (e.g. Dowty 1979). A growing number of recent workson predicate decomposition have shown that there is a close correlation between the semantics of event structure and the syntax (e.g. Hale & Keyser 1993, Harley 1995, Travis 2000, van Hout 2000, Ramchand 2003, 2007). Thisarticle presentsan additional empirical argument for the view that there isa direct mapping between semantic decomposition of predicates and the (morpho)syntax by developing an explicit analysis of the semantics and syntax of the verbal suffix -kan in Standard Indonesian. We argue that -kan isa morphological reflex of the RESULT head, the semantics of which givesris e to a causative interpretation. By treating -kan as being sensitive to a syntactic configuration involving a result state, the current analysis not only provides important empirical support for the event decomposition of predicates in the syntax but also leads to a unified semantic and syntactic account of -kan, which captures straightforwardly distributional properties of the suffix.