The <i>(the) fact is (that)</i> construction in English and Dutch

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This paper deals with a frequently used construction in English and Dutch which can be broadly described as the (DET) (adj) fact is (that) construction. Using authentic data, it starts by presenting a detailed discussion of the differences and similarities between the English and the Dutch constructions in both form and function. Subsequently, it is argued that the formal differences between the English and Dutch constructions can be explained in terms of differences in function. It is shown that there are significant correlations between the various formal and functional properties in the two languages, which are taken to suggest that they are developing in different ways, with the Dutch construction tending towards specialization and the English construction towards further generalization (or bleaching). Finally, a Functional Discourse Grammar (FDG) analysis of constructions of this type is proposed reflecting their specific formal and functional properties. First, it is argued that the sequence (DET) fact is (that) is not to be regarded as a matrix clause, but rather as a semi-fixed pragmatic and/or discourse-organizational marker in extra-clausal position. Next, it will be shown that by exploiting the distinctive characteristics of FDG an insightful account can be provided of the interaction between the pragmatic, semantic, syntactic and phonological features of these constructions, demonstrating the non-arbitrary relationship between their function and their form. Finally, it is shown that analysis proposed can also be used to chart the different stages in the development of the construction in English and Dutch.


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