Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1876-1933
  • E-ISSN: 1876-1941
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In every-day language use, two or more structurally unrelated constructions may occasionally give rise to strings that look very similar on the surface. As a result of this superficial resemblance, a subset of instances of one of these constructions may deviate in the probabilistic preference for either of several possible formal variants. This effect is called ‘constructional contamination’, and was introduced in Pijpops & Van de Velde (2016). Constructional contamination bears testimony to the hypothesis that language users do not always execute a full parse of the utterances they interpret, but instead often rely on ‘shallow parsing’ and the storage of large, unanalyzed chunks of language in memory, as proposed in Ferreira, Bailey, & Ferraro (2002)Ferreira & Patson (2007), and Dąbrowska (2014).

Pijpops & Van de Velde (2016) investigated a single case study in depth, namely the Dutch partitive genitive. This case study is reviewed, and three new case studies are added, namely the competition between long and bare infinitives, word order variation in verbal clusters, and preterite formation. We find evidence of constructional contamination in all case studies, albeit in varying degrees. This indicates that constructional contamination is not a particularity of the Dutch partitive genitive but appears to be more wide-spread, affecting both morphology and syntax. Furthermore, we distinguish between two forms of constructional contamination, viz. first degree and second degree contamination, with first degree contamination producing greater effects than second degree contamination.


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