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A constructional taxonomy of I think and related expressions: accounting for the variability of complement-taking mental predicates1


This article offers a constructional approach to complement-taking mental predicates (CTMPs), e.g. I think, accommodating a whole class of CTMP types (i think, i suppose, i imagine etc.) and their variant forms (e.g. I would think, I should have imagined) in a constructional taxonomy. CTMPs are generally believed to depend on their prototypical simple present form in order to convey an epistemic/evidential meaning. Corpus evidence shows, however, that there exist several variant forms that equally function as interpersonal modifications. Such variation has long presented a stumbling block to studies approaching CTMPs from the point of view of grammaticalization theory, since this framework has traditionally been rather inimical to the idea that a grammaticalized item may encompass a paradigm of variant forms and instead requires internal fixation into an unalterable form. It will be argued that CTMPs should be regarded as constructions constituting a taxonomy characterized by several levels of schematicity. It will be demonstrated that the most frequently used CTMP, i think, has reached the highest degree of entrenchment and schematicity, and consequently sanctions the widest range of variant forms, which are disseminated throughout the taxonomy by virtue of analogization.

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English Language & Linguistics
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