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Gradualness in change in English (augmented) absolutes

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Abstract

This paper investigates the gradual semantic and syntactic development of Absolute Constructions (AC) in English (an example from Present-day English is: With<i> the teacher refusing to comply, Barry took the matter to the dean </i>(Berent 1975: 11)). On the basis of a comprehensive study of ACs in the Penn Parsed corpora of English, as well as of selected data in the Helsinki Corpus, it is shown that augmented and unaugmented ACs underwent a gradual structural and semantic development. In particular, the AC expanded its array of predicate types making up its characteristic [Subject &#43; Predicate] structure; at the same time, <i>with</i>-ACs in particular show a clear increase in semantic generality. It is argued that this development can easily be accommodated into Himmelmann&#8217;s view of grammaticalization as context expansion. Finally, the integration of this development in the framework of grammatical constructionalization (e.g. Traugott 2008a; Trousdale 2012b) is explored.

References

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