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Abstract Noel

Does diachronic construction grammar equal grammaticalization theory?

The bulk of the work carried out within the construction grammatical paradigm to date has been of a theoretical/synchronic descriptive nature. Like the empirical work on the ontogenesis of constructions (how do constructions come to be part of the language user’s linguistic knowledge?), the study of their phylogenesis (how do constructions come to be part and parcel of the repertory of the means of expression available in a language?) is still very much in its infancy. Or so it would appear, if we restrict our perspective to those researchers engaged in diachronic investigations who have explicitly aligned themselves with the cognitive linguistic/construction grammatical enterprise (e.g. Israel 1996; Verhagen 2002; Kemmer & Hilpert 2005; Trousdale 2005). Widening the perspective, however, we come across the much larger body of linguists who have lined up behind the framework that often goes by the name “grammaticalization theory” (the canonical text on which is Hopper & Traugott 2003). Grammaticalization theorists are first and foremost interested in a particular kind of language change but are becoming increasingly aware of the relevance of constructions to their endeavour (e.g. see Traugott 2003; Bergs & Diewald (eds.) to appear). The question may surface, therefore, whether diachronic construction grammar and grammaticalization theory coincide or merely intersect. The paper explores this question by examining the extent to which construction grammarians looking at the history of constructions are dealing with grammaticalization, and the extent to which, and the sense in which, researchers working within the confines of the grammaticalization theoretical framework are considering constructions.



Bergs, Alexander and Gabriele Diewald (eds.) (to appear) Constructions and Language Change. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Hopper, Paul J. and Elizabeth Closs Traugott (2003) Grammaticalization. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Israel, Michael (1996) ‘The way constructions grow.’ In Adele Goldberg (ed.) Conceptual Structure, Discourse and Language. Stanford: CSLI. 217-230.

Kemmer, Suzanne and Martin Hilpert (2005) ‘Constructional grammaticalization in the make-causative.’ Paper presented at the Workshop on Constructions and Language Change, held at the XVIIth International Conference on Historical Linguistics, Madison, Wisconsin, 31 July-5 August 2005.

Traugott, Elizabeth Closs (2003) ‘Constructions in grammaticalization.’ In Brian D. Joseph & Richard D. Janda (eds.) The Handbook of Historical Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. 624-647.

Trousdale, Graeme (2005) ‘Words and constructions in grammaticalization: The end of the English impersonal construction.’ Paper presented at the 4th annual conference on Studies in the History of the English Language, Flagstaff, Arizona, 30 September-2 October 2005.

Verhagen, Arie (2002) ‘From parts to wholes and back again.’ Cognitive Linguistics 13: 403-439.