Cognitive Linguistics 31 (4):609-645 (2020)

A tight connection between competence and performance is a central tenet of the usage-based model. Methodologically, however, corpus frequency is a poor predictor of acceptability – a phenomenon known as the “frequency/acceptability mismatch”. This article argues that the mismatch arises from a “methodological mismatch”, when simple frequency measures are mapped onto complex grammatical units. To illustrate, we discuss the results of acceptability judgments of go/come-v. The construction is subject to a formal constraint, which results from its mandative semantics. While a formal model makes no prediction with regard to gradient acceptability of bare go/come-v, the usage-based view assumes that acceptability is a function of compatibility with an abstract schema. The experimental ratings are compared with a number of corpus-derived measures: while acceptability is largely independent of frequency, it is not independent of frequency-related usage distribution. The results add to recent suggestions that the frequency/acceptability mismatch is substantially reduced if the syntactic complexity of a unit is appropriately captured in usage data.
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DOI 10.1515/cog-2020-2040
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