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On the relation between inheritance and change

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Abstract

This work addresses the relation between inheritance and change in the framework of Diachronic Construction Grammar. Given that change is commonly thought of as a linear unidirectional path and inheritance relations tend to be organized in a multidirectional radial fashion, I propose two hypotheses to account for the way new constructions emerge in a language and their relation to existing constructions. The Constructional Convergence Hypothesis claims that historically unrelated constructions can come to participate in the same formally and functionally motivated network of constructions. Such participation results from a series of changes that merge the form and meaning of the new construction into an already existing pattern. The Construction Network Reconfiguration Hypothesis then proposes that, as new constructions emerge, inheritance relations in construction networks change. The change drives speakers to propose new links between constructions regardless of linear relationships. To demonstrate the validity of this claim, I develop an analysis of constructions from the Para Infinitive family of constructions in Brazilian Portuguese, based on extensive data collection from the 13th to the 21st century. The analyses show that speakers seem to have reconfigured the Para Infinitive construction network as far back as the 13th century. Since then, the emergence of new patterns has led to the expansion of the network and the reconfiguration of its inheritance links.

References

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