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Constructionalization and constructional changes

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Recent research in both formal and functional accounts of change (e.g. Roberts 2010, Traugott and Trousdale 2010) has focused on micro-changes, incremental steps in the creation of new grammatical structures. In this talk, based on joint research with Elizabeth Traugott, I provide an outline of how the framework of Construction Grammar may be utilized to account for such micro-changes, and how this bears on the distinction between grammaticalization and lexicalization in morphosyntactic change (see Lightfoot 2011). A distinction between constructionalization (the creation of a new sign in the network) and constructional change (alteration to an existing sign in the network) is made, which is then illustrated by reference to the development of the English way-construction (e.g. she trash-talked her way into a Strikeforce title shot [Vancouver Sun, March 4th 2012]). This development is discussed in connection with recent neurolinguistic research on the syntax-lexicon continuum (see Pulvermüller, Cappelle and Shtyrov 2013). The final part of the talk considers how a more formal variant of Construction Grammar (such as Sign-Based Construction Grammar; Boas and Sag 2012, Michaelis 2013) may be used to track the kind of micro-changes described.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Linguistics Forum series.

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