Volume 22, Issue 4
  • ISSN 1384-6655
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9811
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This paper describes a method to automatically identify stages of language change in diachronic corpus data, combining variability-based neighbour clustering, which offers objective and reproducible criteria for periodization, and distributional semantics as a representation of lexical meaning. This method partitions the history of a grammatical construction according to qualitative stages of productivity corresponding to different semantic sets of lexical items attested in it. Two case studies are presented. The first case study on the -construction (“Verb NP”) shows that the semantic development of a construction does not always match that of its quantitative aspects, like token or type frequency. The second case study on the -construction compares the results of the present method with those of collostructional analysis. It is shown that the former measures semantic changes and their chronology with greater precision. In sum, this method offers a promising approach to exploring semantic variation in the lexical fillers of constructions and to modelling constructional change.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): constructions; diachrony; distributional semantics; periodization; productivity
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