Gradualness in change in English (augmented) absolutes
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 + 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’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.