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UCREL Corpus Research Seminar

Date: 2 February 2012 Time: 14.00-15.00 pm

Venue: FASS Building, Meeting Room 3

Using corpus approaches to test theoretical statements - a case study:

Explaining the modal load of if-conditionals through Construction Grammar and Lexical Grammar

Costas Gabrielatos (Lancaster University)

Corpus based examinations of the extent of modal marking (modal load) in if-conditionals in the written BNC (Gabrielatos 2007, 2010) have revealed that they have a significantly heavier modal load than average, as well as a heavier modal load than indirect interrogatives with if and whether, concessive conditionals with even if and whether, as well as non-conditional bi-partite constructions with when and whenever. More importantly, if-conditionals also show a heavier modal load than conditionals with other subordinators (assuming, in case, on condition, provided, supposing, unless). It is also noteworthy that the protases of if-conditionals have a modal load at least equal to that of the baseline (a random sample from the written BNC) - despite protases being already modally marked by if (not calculated in the modal load). The picture becomes more complicated, and more interesting, when comparing the modal load of the subordinate and matrix parts of the constructions in focus - particularly those containing if as their subordinator.

The explanations for the emerging modal load patterns are sought in the tenets of two recent linguistic theories: Construction Grammar and Lexical Grammar. More precisely, what is investigated is whether the modal load of if-conditionals (and other constructions with if) can be explained by the collocations and emerging semantic preference of the word if (Lexical Grammar), or by the nature and composition of individual constructions (Construction Grammar).


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Costas Gabrielatos

Organising departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language, University Centre for Computer Corpus Research on Language (UCREL)


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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