No equivalence: A new principle of no synonymy

  • Benoît Leclercq University of Paris 8
  • Cameron Morin École Normale Supérieure de Lyon
Keywords: Principle of No Synonymy, Allostructions, Alternations


Goldberg’s (1995, 67) principle of no synonymy features among the foundational conceptual tools of Construction Grammar. This principle states that when two constructions differ in form, they must be semantically or pragmatically distinct. In recent years, increasing concerns have been raised as to its theoretical and descriptive accuracy however (e.g. Kinsey et al., 2007; Uhrig, 2015; Laporte et al., 2021), leading Uhrig (2015) to argue that it is largely ‘overrated’. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, we present a critical discussion aimed at answering these concerns and we contend that the principle is neither overrated nor inaccurate. Second, we argue that the principle would gain in precision and explanatory power if it were to be conceptually fine-tuned under a new name: the ‘principle of no equivalence’. We show that the notions of competition and distributional niche are crucial to understanding the principle and that, alongside the ‘semantic’ and ‘pragmatic’ types of meaning, the notion of ‘social’ meaning is another crucial factor that needs to be taken into account.

Text © Benoît Leclercq & Cameron Morin, CC-BY 4.0. Fig. 1 © John Benjamins Publishing Company, used with permission.