Discourse linguistics: Theory and practice
  • ISSN 0929-998X
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9765
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The role of discourse frequency in the development of two English connectives is explored, in the context of recent work emphasizing the role of syntagmatic relations in language change and suggesting that it is constructions, rather than lexical items, which grammaticalize. The development of sub-constructions with in fact and at least are traced in a quantitative study based on corpora of formal and informal historical English. Each case involves an adverbial undergoing functional split as the clausal structure in which it is used becomes aligned with different discourse (sub-)constructions. In fact becomes both contrastive and elaborative; at least becomes evaluative and reformulative. It is shown how the adverbial expression in each case becomes compressed and more abstract, so that its informational weight is reduced, and how the English principle of end focus pushes it increasingly towards clause-initial position, resulting in alignment with the connective construction.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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