Volume 30, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0176-4225
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9714
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We present a cross-constructional approach to the history of the genitive alternation and the dative alternation in Late Modern English (AD 1650 to AD 1999), drawing on richly annotated datasets and modern statistical modeling techniques. We identify cross-constructional similarities in the development of the genitive and the dative alternation over time (mainly with regard to the loosening of the animacy constraint), a development which parallels distributional changes in animacy categories in the corpus material. Theoretically, we transfer the notion of ‘probabilistic grammar’ to historical data and claim that the corpus models presented reflect past speakers’ knowledge about the distribution of genitive and dative variants. The historical data also helps to determine what is constant (and timeless) in the effect of selected factors such as animacy or length, and what is variant.


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