How to create a productive grammar for Spanish verb conjugation in Fluid Construction Grammar

Katrien Beuls

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This demonstration shows a working implementation of a medium scale Spanish grammar that was developed for the purpose of a language tutoring system for Spanish verb conjugation. The grammar mainly focuses on concatenative morphology but extends to cases of stem-internal vowel changes and ortographic changes. It handles parsing and production with the same inventory of constructions.

Feature structures for the regular present conjugation

The resulting transient structures after parsing all forms of the verb cantar "to sing" in the indicative present paradigm are listed below. You can click on "transient structure" to collapse the semantic and syntactic poles to get more details of each of the feature structures. The meaning that results from the parsing process is included on the right.

The parsing of cantamos leads to two possible solutions: the 1st plural indicative present interpretation and the 1st plural indicative preterite interpretation. The current grammar analyses the -amos suffix in two different ways depending on the interpretation: the present indicative splits the suffix into the 1st class theme vowel -a and the 1pl suffix -mos . The preterite uses -amos as a holistic suffix that contributes both tense-aspect-mood information as person-number information.

canto"I sing"
((1sg-agent ?agent-828 ?event-3117) (cantar ?event-3117 ?context-2113) (relation ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 simultaneous) (time-point ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 present-point))
cantas"you sing"(sg)
((2sg-agent ?agent-829 ?event-3117) (cantar ?event-3117 ?context-2113) (relation ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 simultaneous) (time-point ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 present-point))
canta"he/she sings"
((3sg-agent ?agent-830 ?event-3117) (cantar ?event-3117 ?context-2113) (relation ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 simultaneous) (time-point ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 present-point))
cantamos"we sing"
((1pl-agent ?agent-831 ?event-3117) (cantar ?event-3117 ?context-2113) (profile-event ?event-3117 complete) (relation ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1112 simultaneous) (time-point ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1112 recalled-point))

((1pl-agent ?agent-831 ?event-3117) (cantar ?event-3117 ?context-2113) (relation ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 simultaneous) (time-point ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 present-point))
cantáis"you sing "(pl)
((2pl-agent ?agent-832 ?event-3117) (cantar ?event-3117 ?context-2113) (relation ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 simultaneous) (time-point ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 present-point))
cantan"they sing"
((3pl-agent ?agent-833 ?event-3117) (cantar ?event-3117 ?context-2113) (relation ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 simultaneous) (time-point ?event-3117 ?reference-time-1113 present-point))

These transient structures are the result of a parsing (or production) process that accumulates the information contributed by multiple constructions. Here below you can inspect the parsing and production processes of the verb form canto 'I sing'. Every node in the processing pipeline contains the application of one particular construction (whose name is present in the box label). You can expand boxes with multiple construction applications (those with an asterisk) by clicking on them. Failed construction applications are coloured red. The applied constructions are included as well (production).

Parsing canto
Producing canto
Applied constructions

Semi-regular verbs: accounting for stem changes

Cantar is a regular verb of the productive first conjugation. However, Spanish is known for the many irregular forms verbs can take on. One example is the ortographic change needed in verb forms to preserve their pronunciation. An example is the stem-final -g in a verb such as llegar 'to arrive'. To preserve its velar pronunciation, an additional -u has to be added when the stem precedes an e or an i . The following construction application processes show the production of the regular verb cantar for the 1st singular preterite and the same form of the semi-regular verb llegar .

Producing canté
Producing llegué
Stem change cxn

Some verbs even require two stem change operations in certain slots of their verb paradigm. An example is the verb cocer 'to cook'. Apart from a pronunciation-conserving operation that changes the stem-final -c into a -z , also the stem vowel changes from -o- into -ue- . The two constructions that carry out these stem changes are included below.

Producing cuezo
Stem change cxn

Composed verb forms: auxiliary + main verb

The forms we have looked at so far were all simple forms. Yet, composed verbs forms are needed to form the present or past perfect or progressive forms in Spanish. The following example shows how the past pluscuamperfect habíamos cantado 'we had sung' can be parsed with this Spanish verb grammar and includes the final transient structure that displays a verb phrase unit linking the auxiliary and the main verb.

Parsing habíamos cantado
Final transient structure
Parsed meaning
((1pl-agent ?agent-892 ?event-3303) (relation ?event-3303 ?reference-time-1183 anterior) (profile-event ?event-3303 complete) (time-point ?event-3303 ?reference-time-1183 recalled-point) (cantar ?event-3303 ?context-2277))

Finally, irregular verb forms are saved as whole constructions rather than being analysed by means of morphemes. An example is the irregular past participle visto from the verb ver 'to see'. The present perfect (1sg) is produced as follows:

Producing he visto
Final transient structure