Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1876-1933
  • E-ISSN: 1876-1941
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This paper contributes to the study of grammaticalization phenomena from the perspective of Construction Grammar (Coussé et al. 2018). It is concerned with modal uses of the English verb that express a permitted action, as in . Different views exist on the contexts in which permissive emerged. Gronemeyer (1999: 30) suggests that the permissive meaning derives from causative uses (). An alternative is proposed by van der Auwera et al. (2009: 283), who view permissive as an extension of its acquisitive meaning (). We revisit these claims in the light of recent historical data from American English. Specifically, we searched the COHA (Davies 2010) for forms of followed by and a verb in the infinitive. Besides examples of permissive , we retrieved examples of obligative (), causative (), possessive (), and a category that we label inchoative (). Drawing on distributional semantic techniques (Perek 20162018), we analyse how permissive and inchoative developed semantically over time. Our results are consistent with an account that represents an alternative to both Gronemeyer (1999) and van der Auwera et al. (2009), namely the idea that permissive evolved out of inchoative uses that invited the idea of a permission.


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