Research axis n°2: Motivation in grammar and in the lexicon

Contacts : Pierre Cotte and Elise Mignot

Grammar and the lexicon are major components of language, manifested in each language, in their own way. For each language studied at Sorbonne University, there is a national and international tradition of linguistic research which is continually renewed thanks to the evolution of theories, the use of ever more powerful and specialized corpora and the awareness of the diversity of texts and genres. This research focuses primarily on what is specific and stimulating in a language; it improves the way this language is taught as well as the linguistic theories related to the linguistic phenomena under study.

The members of the CeLiSo contribute to this research; they are recognized experts of the linguistics of one or several languages; their dynamism is illustrated by their publications, communications, seminars and their roles as directors of research (many PhD theses and habilitations to direct research in linguistics are defended within the CeLiSo). These linguists study the linguistic phenomena which are relevant to research axis 2 in their own language of study (aspect, negation, purpose). The examination of multiple linguistic phenomena, the issues that are raised and the possible solutions in various languages is very enlightening. What seems obvious in one language is often relevant – even if hidden – in another.

“Motivation in grammar and the lexicon” is one of the themes around which meetings will be organized in the years to come. “Motivation” is synonymous with “non arbitrary relationship”; although it is accepted that the relationships between the meanings of lexical and grammatical polysemes are motivated, there is no consensus in the linguistic community on whether the relationship between meaning and syntactic form is arbitrary or not, and the question is rarely at the center of discussions. Only a few linguists have properly argued theoretical positions, for or against motivation; analyses often show that the relationship between meaning and syntax is motivated, but its nature is variable. There is now a need for clarification, namely for some research conducted by members of the CeLiSo: positional syntax, constituent order, syntactic profile of the lexical units of the same semantic category or semantic profile of syntactic structures, relationship between grammatical categories and conceptualisation of the world, etc.

The aim of these meetings on motivation is not to present new theories but first to give a clear picture of the matter, which is lacking today. We will list the positions of each theoretical framework (structuralists, generativists, enunciativists, cognitivists, etc.) and we will also observe and classify the practices of linguists to highlight new issues and maybe put forward some hypotheses.