The Usage-based Constructionist Approach
As language users, our goals are simple. We want to understand messages on the basis the formal patterns we witness, and we aim to produce patterns that successfully convey our intended messages while following the conventions of our language community as best we can. From these twin goals, it follows that we must learn the ways in which formal patterns and their functions are conventionally paired in the language(s) we speak or sign; that is, we must learn the constructions of our languages, which are defined as learned pairings of form and function. Constructions vary in their internal complexity and abstractness and include words, partially filled words (aka morphemes) and grammatical constructions. Our “constructicon” (a vastly expanded version of the traditional lexicon) consists of an incredibly rich and complex high-dimensional tapestry of generalizations and subregularities, as well as nuanced and detailed information. This perspective on language emphasizes statistics in the input as well as the function of language as a system of communication, and suggests implications for pedagogy that I hope we can discuss.