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Formulaic sequences: a drop in the ocean of constructions or something more significant

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Bürki Andreas,
Project Typisierte Sprache - in Geschichte, Dikurs und Ontogenese
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal European Journal of English Studies
Volume (Issue) 20(1)
Page(s) 15 - 34
Title of proceedings European Journal of English Studies
DOI 10.1080/13825577.2015.1136158

Open Access


This article investigates how formulaic sequences fit into a constructionist approach to grammar, which is a major post-Chomskyan family of approaches to linguistic structure. I consider whether, in this framework, formulaic sequences represent a phenomenon that is sufficiently different to warrant special status or whether they might best be studied in terms of the larger set of all constructions found in language. Based on data drawn from a large corpus of Wikipedia texts, it is argued that it is extremely difficult to form a distinct class of formulaic sequences without creating highly arbitrary boundaries. On the other hand, based on existing theoretical claims that formulaic sequences are the basis of first language acquisition, a marker of proficiency in a language, critical to the success of communicative acts and key to rapid language processing, it is argued that formulaic sequences as constructions are nevertheless significant enough to be the focus of research, and a theoretical category meriting particular attention. These findings have key repercussions both for research primarily interested in formulaic language and phraseology as well as for construction grammatical research.