ProjectThe dynamics of prepositions and prepositional constructions in Spanish

Basic data

The dynamics of prepositions and prepositional constructions in Spanish
01/05/2023 to 30/04/2026
Abstract / short description:
The scientific network “The dynamics of prepositions and prepositional constructions in Spanish” has the overarching goal of investigating Spanish prepositional constructions as well as the role of prepositional elements within constructions, e.g. distinto a/de ‘different from’, vehículo de/a motor ‘motor vehicle’ or contactar con/a alguien ‘contact sb’, which are typical for the Romance languages. However, both prepositions and prepositional constructions are extremely heterogeneous and disputed categories and defy a uniform classification in category-based linguistic approaches as well as in psycho- and neurolinguistic studies on language acquisition and processing. This is mostly due to the fact that prepositions and prepositional constructions both lie on a lexicon-grammar continuum and simultaneously include elements that have traditionally been considered grammatical(ized) and lexical(ized) items.
In order to grasp the particular status of prepositions and prepositional elements, our network adopts a usage-based Construction Grammar approach, in which prepositions are seen as an emergent category that is learned from prototypical slots in constructions, which are subject to constant reorganization and where a static endpoint is in principle never attained. In constructionist approaches, we assume different levels of schematicity going from fully schematic constructions, such as [N Prep N], over partially filled constructions, such as [N de N], to fully lexically filled constructions, such as [vehículo de motor]. The underlying hypothesis for the projects in our network is that the interaction and variability between and within different levels of schematicity as assumed in Construction Grammar determine both the nature and the role of prepositions.
We assume that this change of perspective contributes to a refined understanding of the nature of prepositions in at least three ways. First, we do not investigate prepositions as isolated items but bring into focus larger linguistic units (or ‘constructions’) as well as the respective (lexical, grammatical or discursive) elements that are connected by prepositions within them. Second, the assumption of a continuum between lexicon and syntax resolves the unclear lexical vs. grammatical cut-off line, both for prepositions and for the constructions in which they occur. Third, the constructionist perspective highlights the dynamic relationship between concrete tokens and more schematic patterns at various levels of complexity and abstraction. Relying on synchronic and diachronic corpus analyses, these can be captured in syntagmatic and paradigmatic associative networks. In order to determine whether constructions that can be assumed to be related in a constructional network are also cognitively linked in individual speakers, we rely on experimental psycholinguistic methods such as priming and eye-tracking. In this vein, we critically examine the role of mid-level (i.e., partially lexically filled) constructions, in which prepositional ‘pillars’ are attributed a central role in constructionist approaches, for the processing of prepositions and prepositional constructions. Our findings and their theoretical implications for Spanish may then also be extended towards a cross-linguistic comparative perspective on prepositions and prepositional constructions in other languages (e.g. Romance or Germanic).
Romanische Sprachen

Involved staff


Institute of Romance Languages and Literatures
Department of Modern Languages, Faculty of Humanities
Institute of Romance Languages and Literatures
Department of Modern Languages, Faculty of Humanities

Local organizational units

Institute of Romance Languages and Literatures
Department of Modern Languages
Faculty of Humanities


Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

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