A computational construction grammar account of the interplay between argument structure and information structure in German

Veronica Juliana Schmalz, Katrien Beuls and Paul Van Eecke

In this talk, we will present a computational construction grammar approach to modelling the interplay between argument structure and information structure in German. In particular, we will demonstrate and discuss a fully operational computational construction grammar that can map between German utterances that instantiate different argument structure patterns (intransitives, transitives, ditransitives, …) and their meaning representation in both the comprehension and the production direction. We will show how argument structure constructions map between semantic roles and their case realisations (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative), and how they specify the syntactic roles of the different arguments (subject, direct object, indirect object, prepositional object). In turn, information structure constructions map between syntactic roles and word order patterns, potentially topicalising particular arguments.

Our model makes two main contributions to the field of computational construction grammar. On the one hand, it extends the feature matrix system proposed by van Trijp (2011) by adding an additional row representing grammatical number. The feature matrix system makes it possible to collect information from different sources, in particular the possible cases, genders, and numbers of determiners and nouns, and avoid committing to a particular case, gender or number before all ambiguity has been resolved. On the other hand, it operationalises Goldberg (2013)’s intuition that argument structure constructions do not need to rely on word order constraints, but that word order can be handled independently by information structure constructions.

An initial use case of the model that we present consists in analysing utterances formulated by L2 learners of German and providing corrective feedback on their language production process. This feedback does not only provide morpho-syntactic error correction, but also provides information about different semantic aspects of the produced utterances, including the roles of the participants in an event and whether they are topicalised or not.


Goldberg, A. E. (2013). Argument structure constructions versus lexical rules or derivational verb templates. Mind & Language, 28(4), 435-465.

van Trijp, R. (2011). Feature matrices and agreement: A case study for German case. In: Steels, L., editor, Design Patterns in Fluid Construction Grammar. Pages 205-235.