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Cognitive GrammarA Basic Introduction$
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Ronald Langacker

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331967

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331967.001.0001

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Clause Structure

Clause Structure

(p.354) 11 Clause Structure
Cognitive Grammar

Ronald W. Langacker

Oxford University Press

A full clause profiles a grounded instance of a process type. Conceptual archetypes function as the prototypical values of basic clause types and clausal elements. Languages naturally differ in their implementation of this general characterization, and within a language clauses are varied and complex. Subject and object are defined schematically as trajector and landmark, i.e. primary and secondary focal participant. In most languages a particular semantic role represents the typical choice of trajector: either agent or theme (a patient-like participant). Each is the starting point along a natural path: the path of energy flow in the case of agent, and a path based on conceptual autonomy in the case of theme. In varied proportions and for different grammatical phenomena, every language makes some use of these two basic strategies. This is the basis for nominative/accusative, ergative/absolutive, and agent/patient organization. It can be argued that subject is a grammatical universal when defined abstractly in terms of primary focal prominence. In addition to the most typical clausal organization, every language offers a variety of alternatives for special purposes. Voice alternations (such as active, passive, and middle) pertain to the semantic role of the participant focused as trajector. The trajector can also be a non-participant, e.g. a setting or location. There is comparable variation in the choice of landmark, resulting in different kinds of objects. In agent-oriented languages, clauses which choose the theme as trajector represent an important secondary option. The verb of a clause is often complex. In addition to incorporating nominal or adverbial elements, the verb can exhibit layers of morphological derivation, be a phrase instead of a single word, or even consist in a series of verb-like elements.

Keywords:   absolutive, accusative, active, agent, conceptual archetype, conceptual autonomy, ergative, incorporation, landmark, location, middle, morphological derivation, natural path, nominative, object, participant, passive, patient, phrasal verb, prototype, semantic role, serial verb, setting, subject, theme, trajector, universality, voice

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