On what a construction is

  • Martin Haspelmath Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology


In this short think-piece, I propose a definition of the term construction for general linguistics and I relate it to the earlier literature. The term construction has a general meaning that was not defined in the earlier literature, but several specific definitions were proposed in work by construction grammarians. Here I point out that construction grammarians actually tend to use the general meaning, even though it is widely known that “construction in the sense of construction grammar” has been defined in more specific senses. I propose that the novel senses are perhaps better expressed by novel terms (such as “inventorial item”), and that the primary insight about the continuity of word knowledge and constructional knowledge is best expressed by using a different term (such as “inventorium”) to cover all “stored pieces of structure”.