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Sign-Based Construction Grammar

Edited by Hans C. Boas and Ivan A. Sag

This volume provides a general overview of Sign-Based Construction Grammar (SBCG), the synthesis of Berkeley Construction Grammar and Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar that emerged from a decade of interactions between Ivan Sag, Charles Fillmore, Paul Kay and Laura Michaelis. The papers collected here also demonstrate the analytic value of SBCG for a variety of linguistic problems—some old chestnuts, others untouched by ‘mainstream’ theories.`

Hans C. Boas is a professor in the Department of Germanic Studies and the Department of Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin, where he also directs the Linguistics Research Center and the Texas German Dialect Project.

Ivan A. Sag (1949–2013), a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Linguistic Society of America, was the Sadie Dernham Patek Professor in Humanities and a professor of linguistics at Stanford University.


“During recent years, there has been an interesting move to combine the formal explicitness of Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar and the careful study of the idiosyncracies and complexities of natural language that characterizes work in Construction Grammar. The present volume contains introductions to the formal framework as well as several concrete analyses of data. The contributions range over a number of intriguing aspects of lexical and grammatical constructs and show that the core of the analysis can be expressed in a more or less formalized fashion.

The varying backgrounds of the contributors could have led to theoretical and terminological confusion, but the editors have succeeded in making the volume accessible to readers from different traditions. The reader is helped by the fact that there is both a Construction index and a Subject index, in addition to the indispensable list of abbreviations.”
–Elisabet Engdahl, Professor of Swedish, University of Gothenburg

“This long- and eagerly-awaited book represents the marriage of Berkeley Construction Grammar and Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar. SBCG's assumptions about the nature of constructions are made fully explicit, and the framework is applied to a wide range of constructions by a number of leading scholars. This volume offers a thoroughly worked-out theory of constructions that poses a challenge to generative grammar, and an opportunity for other construction grammarians to make explicit similarities and differences among constructional approaches. Its publication marks a significant advance in our understanding of grammatical structure and grammatical knowledge.”
–William Croft, Professor of Linguistics, University of New Mexico

“This is the first book-length presentation of Sign-Based Construction Grammar, an approach to language which combines insights from Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar and Berkeley Construction Grammar. It provides a detailed description of the framework, explains how it differs from other kinds of construction grammar, defends it against various misconceptions, and shows how it can handle a variety of syntactic and semantic phenomena. It deserves the attention of anyone interested in grammar of human languages.”
–Bob Borsley, Professor of Language and Linguistics, University of Essex

This much-awaited volume brings together two important traditions in syntax, providing an introduction to the principles and practice of the Sign-Based Construction Grammar (SBCG) framework. The framework can be applied to grammatical generalizations and distinctions at any level of granularity, from the potentially universal to the item-specific.
–Peter Sells, Professor and Head of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York

“This book takes a significant step in capturing grammatical structure by merging two approaches to grammar that combine the precision possible in a strict, constraint-based formalism such as HPSG with a fully constructional approach to linguistic facts developed by the Berkeley Construction Grammar group.”
–Paul Kay, Consulting Professor, Stanford University and Professor Emeritus, Berkeley

“A variety of Construction-theoretic approaches have facilitated an ongoing reconceptualization of grammar analysis. This has made the study of syntax and morphology finally compatible with research methodologies and results in numerous related disciplines. This long anticipated book represents a clear articulation of the principles informing the Sign-Based construction-theoretic approach to grammar analysis. There can be no credible criticism of the general paradigm that has not considered the authors' clearly presented arguments and motivations and, additionally, has understood the formal implementation of the Sign-Based perspective developed in the book. The book is a crucial resource for anyone who wants to understand the nature of language and the reconceptualization of grammatical analysis that is altering familiar foundational assumptions.”
–Farrell Ackerman, Professor of Linguistics, UC San Diego


  1. Introducing Sign-Based Construction Grammar
    Ivan A. Sag, Hans C. Boas, and Paul Kay
  2. Making the Case for Construction Grammar
    Laura A. Michaelis
  3. Sign-Based Construction Grammar: An Informal Synopsis
    Ivan A. Sag
  4. The Distribution of that-Clauses in English: An SBCG Account
    Gert Webelhuth
  5. Cleaning up the Big Mess: Discontinuous Dependencies and Complex Determiners
    Paul Kay and Ivan A. Sag
  6. Reconstructing Syntax: Construction Grammar and the Comparative Method
    Jóhanna Bardal and Thórhallur Eythórsson
  7. The FrameNet Constructicon
    Charles J. Fillmore, Russell R. Lee-Goldman, and Russell Rhomieux

October 2012

ISBN (Paperback): 9781575866284
ISBN (Cloth): 9781575866291
ISBN (electronic): 9781575866444

Books by Ivan A. Sag

Books by Hans C. Boas

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