Corpus linguistics and grammaticalisation theory

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The paper argues for a closer collaboration between corpus linguists and grammaticalisation theorists. Corpora have a number of benefits: First, they make it possible to study incipient or ongoing processes of grammaticalisation. Secondly, a quantitative-cum-qualitative analysis of corpus data makes it possible to shed light on important theoretical issues. Thirdly, corpora allow a better take on the textlinguistic, genre and discourse factors relevant to grammaticalisation. The general points made are illustrated with data provided in the digitally accessible quotation base of the OED. On the basis of the evidence, I propose a distinction between two types of grammaticalisation, a “dynamic” one, which is reflected in massive shifts of frequency, and a “static” one, which can be characterised as the occasional use of lexical items in grammatical function.


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