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Nederlandse Taalkunde



Tijd om de Syntactische Boom om te Hakken: Lange-afstandsafhankelijkheden zonder transformaties of filler-gaps


Long-distance dependencies belong to the most controversial challenges in linguistics. These patterns seem to contain constituents that have left their original position in a sentence and that have landed in a different place. A typical example is the relative clause the person I have talked to yesterday, in which the direct object (the person) is not situated in an argument position following the verb, but instead is located at the beginning of the utterance. Upon closer inspection, however, all problems related to long-distance dependencies can be reduced to the limits of phrase structural analyses. A phrase structure tree is a rigid data structure in which information is shared between local nodes. These analyses therefore need to resort to more complex formal machinery in order to overcome this locality constraint, such as using transformations or positing filler-gap constructions. However, there exists a more intuitive alternative within the tradition of cognitive-functional linguistics in which long-distance dependencies do not require special treatment. Instead, these patterns are simply the side effect of how grammatical constructions combine with each other in order to satisfy the communicative needs of language users. Through a computational implementation in Fluid Construction Grammar, this article demonstrates that it is perfectly feasible to formalize this alternative in a model that is capable of both formulating and comprehending utterances.