The role of intonation in Construction Grammar: on prosodic constructions

Gras, Pedro & Elvira-García, Wendy
Membres autors
Journal of Pragmatics, 180, 232-247

In constructionist approaches, constructions are defined as pairings of phonological, morphological and syntactic form, and semantic, pragmatic or discursive meaning. However, in practice very few constructional analyses deal specifically with the intonational properties of constructions. Moreover, constructional approaches are not clear about the ontological status of intonation in a constructional model of language. Combining insights from Construction Grammar and Intonational Studies, specifically the Autosegmental Metrical framework of intonational phonology and the Tones and Breaks Indices (ToBI) transcription model, this paper discusses the role of prosody in a construction-based approach to language, through the analysis of the insubordinate conditional construction (ICC) in Spanish. Building on the analysis of the prosody of 90 tokens of the ICC uttered by 14 native speakers of Peninsular Spanish, we argue that the best way to account for the relationship between intonational patterns and (lexicogrammatical) constructions is to treat intonational patterns as constructions that pair a phonological form with a semantic-pragmatic meaning, which are then inherited by sentence-level constructions as long as their meanings are compatible.