The Basics of Fluid Construction Grammar

This is a web demo that supplements the paper:

Steels, L. (2016). Basics of Fluid Construction Grammar. Constructions and Frames. Submitted.

Please check our web demonstration guide to find out more on what you can see in the demo and what you can do with it.

This demonstration has the following parts:

I. Simple noun phrase construction

II. Intransitive clause construction

III. Transitive clause construction

IV. Ditransitive clause construction

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I. A simple noun phrase construction.

(I.a.) The following construction schemas are loaded in memory:

(click on encircled + to zoom in and on encircled dot to zoom out):

1. A construction schema for the article `the'. There is only one unit involved, which is for the word itself. On the right hand side of the unit is the lock. The production lock (top) requires that the meaning includes `specificity(definite,?referent). The comprehension lock (bottom) requires that there is a string `the' in the input. On the left hand is the contributor. It specifies the arguments of the meaning and syntactic-categories which include a lex-cat (filled with article) and a number feature, the latter filled with ?number. ?number is a variable because `the' can be singular or plural.

2. A construction schema for the noun `girl'. The production lock requires that the meaning includes `person(girl,?referent). The comprehension lock requires that there is a string `girl' in the input. The contributor introduces meaning and syntactic categories. Note that number is now singular. There are also some semantic categories.

3. A construction schema for a simple noun-phrase. The production lock requires that the args value is the same of two units: the article and noun-unit. The comprehension lock requires that there are two units, to be bound to ?art-unit and ?noun-unit. The ?art-unit must have the value article for its lex-cat and the ?noun-unit must have the value noun. The ?art-unit must come before the ?noun-unit, specified as a meets-constraint within the NP. There is agreement for number between the ?art-unit and ?noun-unit because they share the same variable ?number for the number features and number percolates up to the ?NP-unit if found. The contributor specifies the ?np-unit that will be merged: On the semantic side, the referent of the ?np-unit is ?x, which is equal to the arguments of the two subunits, the semantic function of the ?np-unit is referring, the phrasal-cat is NP, and the subunits are the ?noun-unit and ?article-unit. The sem-class and agreement feature values are inherited from the ?noun-unit. The syntactic functions of the ?art-unit and ?noun-unit in the ?NP-unit are head and determiner respectively.

(I.b) Comprehending an utterance: 'the girl'.

Comprehension takes place by the the successive application of construction schemas. It starts from an initial transient structure that contains a base unit (called root) that represents information about which words occur and their ordering in terms of meets-constraints. The web-interface shows the different steps, which construction schemas have been applied and the final resulting transient structure. The color of each box shows whether the step succeeded (green) or not (light green). Construction schemas are applied in no particular order. A construction applies as soon as their lock is able to match with the transient structure. At each node goal-tests are executed to see whether a successful final transient structure is reached. For parsing: there are two of them here: :no-applicable-cxns and :connected-semantic-network. The latter will signal a failure when all the predicates supplied by the final meaning are not connected.

Click once on a box in the application process to see the transient structure at that point and once again to see more detail: the transient structure before, the construction schema that is applied, the transient structure after application (called the resulting structure), the bindings that were used in the construction application process and the meaning so far (in case of comprehending) or the utterance so far (in case of formulating). Details are in a lower-level notation close to the internal datastructures used by FCG. This notation is documented and used in Steels, L. (2011) Design patterns in Fluid Construction Grammar. John Benjamins Pub, Amsterdam.


Comprehending "the girl"


Applying
in comprehension


initial structure
application process
applied constructions
resulting structure

Meaning:

gstruct0(persongirl?referent-125)struct1(specificitydefinite?referent-125)struct0:varREFERENTdash1251->struct1:varREFERENTdash1252

(I.c) Example of parsing an ungrammatical utterance: 'girl the'.

If 'girl the' is given as input, the lexical constructions for 'girl' and 'the' still apply. However no noun phrase gets built because the simple-np-cxn cannot apply due to a violation of the ordering constraint. We see that the final box in the application process has a light green color and if you click on that you see that the goal-tests have failed, in particular the meaning fragments supplied by the individual words are not connected.


Comprehending "girl the"


Applying
in comprehension


initial structure
application process
applied constructions
resulting structure

Meaning:

gstruct0(specificitydefinite?referent-131)struct1(persongirl?referent-133)

(I.d) Producing an utterance: 'the girl'.

Producing happens using the exact same construction inventory and the same processing engine, but now the matcher uses the production-locks rather than the comprehension-locks.


Formulating 

gstruct0(specificitydefiniteobj-1)struct1(persongirlobj-1)struct0:OBJdash11->struct1:OBJdash12

Applying
in formulation


initial structure
application process
applied constructions
resulting structure

Utterance: "the girl"

II. An intransitive clause construction.

This illustrates a very simple clausal construction with the utterance `he bakes'

The following lexical construction schemas are loaded in memory:

There is a single grammatical construction schema for an intransitive clause. This clause uses three constraints on the syntactic side: lexical categories (there must be an NP and a verb), ordering constraints (the NP must come before the verb), and agreement for number between the subject and the verb.

(II.a) Parsing an intransive clause: 'He bakes'.

Of particular interest here is the way that argument bindings between the verb and its objects is achieved in FCG. We see that the bakes-cxn introduces a bake-event in the meaning feature with roles for a baker and a baked. It has also a case frame with slots for an actor and an undergoer, but the variables of baker/baked and actor/undergoer are not yet made equal because that will be done by the intransitive construction. (See van Trijp, Remi (2011). A design pattern for argument structure constructions. In: Steels, Luc (ed.), Design Patterns in Fluid Construction Grammar (pp. 115-145). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.)

After the application of the intransitive-cxn, we see that the referent-variable associated with `he' has been linked properly with the ?agent-variable for `bake'. You can see this clearly by clicking on the occurrence of a variable and then the interface colors all occurrences with the same hue.


Comprehending "he bakes"


Applying
in comprehension


initial structure
application process
applied constructions
resulting structure

Meaning:

gstruct0(personmale?person-18)struct2(baker?event-76?person-18)struct0:varPERSONdash181->struct2:varPERSONdash183struct1(actionbake?event-76)struct1:varEVENTdash762->struct2:varEVENTdash763struct3(baked?event-76?baked-66)struct2:varEVENTdash763->struct3:varEVENTdash764

Producing an intransive clause: 'He bakes'.

The same construction schemas work again for formulation, but now the production-locks are being used for matching. Note that the role of baked in the bake-event (ev-1) is filled with a variable, implying that it is unknown.


Formulating 

gstruct0(personmaleo-2)struct2(bakerev-1o-2)struct0:Odash21->struct2:Odash23struct1(actionbakeev-1)struct1:EVdash12->struct2:EVdash13struct3(bakedev-1?unknown-object)struct2:EVdash13->struct3:EVdash14

Applying
in formulation


initial structure
application process
applied constructions
resulting structure

Utterance: "he bakes"

III. A transitive clause construction.

This illustrates a very simple clausal construction illustrated with the utterance `he bakes a cake'.

The following lexical construction schemas are loaded in memory:

There is the same simple-np-cxn as before and an additional grammatical construction schema for a transitive clause. The schema has an additional unit for a direct object with not-nominative case and regulates how the roles of the action introduced by the verb get bound to their fillers.

IIIa. Parsing a transitive clause: 'He bakes a cake'.


Comprehending "he bakes a cake"


Applying
in comprehension


initial structure
application process
applied constructions
resulting structure

Meaning:

gstruct0(specificityindefinite?referent-150)struct1(physobjcake?referent-150)struct0:varREFERENTdash1501->struct1:varREFERENTdash1502struct5(baked?event-88?referent-150)struct1:varREFERENTdash1502->struct5:varREFERENTdash1506struct2(personmale?referent-149)struct4(baker?event-88?referent-149)struct2:varREFERENTdash1493->struct4:varREFERENTdash1495struct3(actionbake?event-88)struct3:varEVENTdash884->struct4:varEVENTdash885struct4:varEVENTdash885->struct5:varEVENTdash886

IIIb. Producing a transive clause: 'He bakes a cake'.


Formulating 

gstruct0(physobjcakeo-1)struct1(specificityindefiniteo-1)struct0:Odash11->struct1:Odash12struct5(bakedev-1o-1)struct1:Odash12->struct5:Odash16struct2(personmaleo-2)struct4(bakerev-1o-2)struct2:Odash23->struct4:Odash25struct3(actionbakeev-1)struct3:EVdash14->struct4:EVdash15struct4:EVdash15->struct5:EVdash16

Applying
in formulation


initial structure
application process
applied constructions
resulting structure

Utterance: "he bakes a cake"

IV. A ditransitive clause construction.

This illustrates a ditransitive clause using the utterance `he bakes her a cake'. The example is noteworthy because the construction schema for the ditransitive construction adds more meaning to the meaning supplied by the verb. The example is also interesting because it shows how we can add a dependency grammar perspective alongside the constituent structure and functional viewpoint.

In addition to the previous lexical constructions, we need one lexical construction for `her':

And then the ditransitive construction.

IVa.Parsing a ditransitive clause: 'He bakes her a cake'.


Comprehending "he bakes her a cake"


Applying
in comprehension


initial structure
application process
applied constructions
resulting structure

Meaning:

gstruct0(specificityindefinite?x-225)struct1(cake?x-225)struct0:varXdash2251->struct1:varXdash2252struct4(baked?x-224?x-225)struct1:varXdash2252->struct4:varXdash2255struct2(personfemale?x-223)struct9(receiver?x-224?x-223)struct2:varXdash2233->struct9:varXdash22310struct3(personmale?x-226)struct5(baker?x-224?x-226)struct3:varXdash2264->struct5:varXdash2266struct4:varXdash2245->struct5:varXdash2246struct7(transferred?x-224?x-225)struct4:varXdash2255->struct7:varXdash2258struct6(actionbake?x-224)struct5:varXdash2246->struct6:varXdash2247struct8(causer?x-224?x-226)struct5:varXdash2266->struct8:varXdash2269struct6:varXdash2247->struct7:varXdash2248struct7:varXdash2248->struct8:varXdash2249struct8:varXdash2249->struct9:varXdash22410struct10(actioncause-receive?x-224)struct9:varXdash22410->struct10:varXdash22411

You can observe that new meaning has been added to the verb by inspecting the meaning feature of the bakes unit.

When clicking on the bar above the resulting transient structure, it is possible to choose two viewpoints: h1 which is the constituent structure viewpoint and h2 which is the dependency network viewpoint.

IVb.Producing a ditransitive clause: 'He bakes her a cake'.


Formulating 

gstruct0(specificityindefinitecake-1)struct1(cakecake-1)struct0:CAKEdash11->struct1:CAKEdash12struct4(transferredevent-1cake-1)struct1:CAKEdash12->struct4:CAKEdash15struct2(actioncause-receiveevent-1)struct3(causerevent-1obj-1)struct2:EVENTdash13->struct3:EVENTdash14struct3:EVENTdash14->struct4:EVENTdash15struct7(bakerevent-1obj-1)struct3:OBJdash14->struct7:OBJdash18struct5(receiverevent-1obj-2)struct4:EVENTdash15->struct5:EVENTdash16struct8(bakedevent-1cake-1)struct4:CAKEdash15->struct8:CAKEdash19struct6(actionbakeevent-1)struct5:EVENTdash16->struct6:EVENTdash17struct9(personfemaleobj-2)struct5:OBJdash26->struct9:OBJdash210struct6:EVENTdash17->struct7:EVENTdash18struct7:EVENTdash18->struct8:EVENTdash19struct10(personmaleobj-1)struct7:OBJdash18->struct10:OBJdash111

Applying
in formulation


initial structure
application process
applied constructions
resulting structure

Utterance: "he bakes her a cake"