Reconstructing constructional semantics

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As the historical linguistic community is well aware, reconstructing semantics is a notoriously difficult undertaking. Such reconstruction has so far mostly been carried out on lexical items, like words and morphemes, and has not been conducted for larger and more complex linguistic units, which intuitively seems to be a more intricate task, especially given the lack of methodological criteria and guidelines within the field. This follows directly from the fact that most current theoretical frameworks are not construction-based, that is, they do not assume that constructions are form-meaning correspondences. In order to meet this challenge, we present an attempt at reconstructing constructional semantics, and more precisely the semantics of the Dative Subject Construction for an earlier stage of Indo-European. For this purpose we employ lexical semantic verb classes in combination with the semantic map model (Barðdal 2007, Barðdal, Kristoffersen & Sveen 2011), showing how incredibly stable semantic fields may remain across long time spans, and how reconstructing such semantic fields may be accomplished.


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