Volume 10, Issue 3
  • ISSN 2210-2116
  • E-ISSN: 2210-2124
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



This study provides an empirical analysis of productivity in Light Verb Constructions (LVCs) in the history of American English. LVCs contain a semantically light verb like or that may be paired with an abstract nominal object, as in or . Using a 406-million word corpus of texts written between 1810 and 2009, we track the frequency of LVCs and analyze the range of light verb + nominal object pairings. Using statistical measurements of biodiversity from the field of ecology, we evaluate the hypothesis that “the rich get richer” among light verbs: the most frequent verbs become more frequent and more diverse, occurring with an ever-growing variety of different NP complements. The results contribute to ongoing discussions in cross-linguistic, diachronic research on reasons for the growth of LVCs, the gradient nature of linguistic productivity, and the role of exemplars in the interaction between type and token frequencies during periods of linguistic change.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Akimoto, Minoje & Laurel J. Brinton
    1999 The Origin of the Composite Predicate in Old English. Collocational and Idiomatic Aspects of Composite Predicates in the History of Englished. by Laurel J. Brinton & Minoje Akimoto , 21–56. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.47.11aki
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.47.11aki [Google Scholar]
  2. Albert, Réka & Albert-László Barabási
    2002 Statistical Mechanics of Complex Networks. Reviews of Modern Physics74.47–97. 10.1103/RevModPhys.74.47
    https://doi.org/10.1103/RevModPhys.74.47 [Google Scholar]
  3. Algeo, John
    1995 Having a Look at the Expanded Predicate. The Verb in Contemporary English: Theory and Descriptioned. by Bas Aarts & Charles F. Meyer , 203–217. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Allerton, David J.
    2003Stretched Verb Constructions in English. London: Taylor & Francis. 10.4324/9780203167649
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203167649 [Google Scholar]
  5. Baayen, Harald
    2009 Corpus Linguistics in Morphology: Morphological Productivity. Corpus Linguistics. An International Handbook, vol.2ed. by Anke Lüdeling & Merja Kytö , 899–919. Berlin: Mouton De Gruyter.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Barabási, Albert-László
    2016Network Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Barðdal, Johanna
    2008Productivity: Evidence from Case and Argument Structure in Icelandic. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/cal.8
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cal.8 [Google Scholar]
  8. 2011 The Rise of Dative Substitution in the History of Icelandic: A Diachronic Construction Grammar Approach. Lingua121:1.60–79. 10.1016/j.lingua.2010.07.007
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2010.07.007 [Google Scholar]
  9. Barðdal, Jóhanna & Spike Gildea
    2015 Diachronic Construction Grammar: Epistemological Context, Basic Assumptions and Historical Implications. Diachronic Construction Grammared. by Johanna Barðdal , Elena Smirnova , Lotte Sommerer & Spike Gildea , 1–49. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/cal.18.01bar
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cal.18.01bar [Google Scholar]
  10. Bergs, Alexander
    2005Social Networks and Historical Sociolinguistics: Studies in Morphosyntactic Variation in the Paston Letters (1421–1503). Amsterdam: Walter de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110923223
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110923223 [Google Scholar]
  11. Bonial, Claire Nicole
    2014 Take a Look at This! Form, Function and Productivity of English Light Verb Constructions. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado (USA).
  12. Bonial, Claire , Julia Bonn , Kathryn Conger , Jena Hwang , Martha Palmer & Nicholas Reese
    2015PropBank Annotation Guidelines. Center for Computational Language and Education Research: University of Colorado at Boulder.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Bowern, Claire
    2008 The Diachrony of Complex Predicates. Diachronica25.161–185. 10.1075/dia.25.2.03bow
    https://doi.org/10.1075/dia.25.2.03bow [Google Scholar]
  14. Brinton, Laurel J.
    2008 Where Grammar and Lexis Meet: Composite Predicates in English. Theoretical and Empirical Issues in Grammaticalizationed. by Elena Seoane , María José López-Couso & Teresa Fanego , 33–53. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/tsl.77.04bri
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.77.04bri [Google Scholar]
  15. Brinton, Laurel J. & Minoji Akimoto
    eds. 1999Collocational and Idiomatic Aspects of Composite Predicates in the History of English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.47
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.47 [Google Scholar]
  16. Brinton, Laurel J. & Elizabeth Closs Traugott
    2005Lexicalization and Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511615962
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511615962 [Google Scholar]
  17. Brysbaert, Marc , Amy Beth Warriner & Victor Kuperman
    2014 Concreteness Ratings for Forty-Thousand Generally Known English Word Lemmas. Behavior Research Methods46:3.904–911. 10.3758/s13428‑013‑0403‑5
    https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-013-0403-5 [Google Scholar]
  18. Butt, Miriam
    2003 The Light Verb Jungle. Harvard Working Papers in Linguistics9.1–49.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. 2010 The Light Verb Jungle: Still Hacking Away. Complex Predicates in Cross-linguistic Perspectiveed. by Mengistu Amberber , Brett Baker & Mark Harvey , 48–78. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511712234.004
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511712234.004 [Google Scholar]
  20. Butt, Miriam & Aditi Lahiri
    2013 Diachronic Pertinacity of Light Verbs. Lingua135.7–29. 10.1016/j.lingua.2012.11.006
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2012.11.006 [Google Scholar]
  21. Bybee, Joan
    1985Morphology: An Inquiry into the Relation Between Meaning and Form. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/tsl.9
    https://doi.org/10.1075/tsl.9 [Google Scholar]
  22. 1995 Regular Morphology and the Lexicon. Language and Cognitive Processes10:1.425–455. 10.1080/01690969508407111
    https://doi.org/10.1080/01690969508407111 [Google Scholar]
  23. 2006 From Usage to Grammar: The Mind’s Response to Repetition. Language82:4.711–733. 10.1353/lan.2006.0186
    https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2006.0186 [Google Scholar]
  24. 2010Language, Usage and Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511750526
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511750526 [Google Scholar]
  25. Bybee, Joan & David Eddington
    2006 A Usage-Based Approach to Spanish Verbs of ‘Becoming’. Language82:2.323–355. 10.1353/lan.2006.0081
    https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2006.0081 [Google Scholar]
  26. Chandler, Steve
    2002 Skousen’s Analogical Approach as an Exemplar-Categorization. Analogical Modelinged. by Royal Skousen & Deryle B. Parkinson , 51–105. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/hcp.10.07cha
    https://doi.org/10.1075/hcp.10.07cha [Google Scholar]
  27. Chen, Wei-Te , Claire Bonial & Martha Palmer
    2015 English Light Verb Construction Identification Using Lexical Knowledge. Proceedings from the Twenty-Ninth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence. URL: https://www.aaai.org/ocs/index.php/AAAI/AAAI15/paper/viewPaper/9925
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Claridge, Claudia
    2000Multi-Word Verbs in Early Modern English: A Corpus-Based Study. Amsterdam: Rodopi. 10.1163/9789004333840
    https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004333840 [Google Scholar]
  29. Clark, Eve V.
    1995The Lexicon in Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Clausner, Timothy C. & William A. Croft
    1997 Productivity and Schematicity in Metaphors. Cognitive Science21:3.247–282. 10.1207/s15516709cog2103_1
    https://doi.org/10.1207/s15516709cog2103_1 [Google Scholar]
  31. Davies, Mark
    2010 The Corpus of Historical American English. URL: https://www.english-corpora.org/coha/
  32. Elenbaas, Marion
    2013 The Synchronic and Diachronic Status of English Light Verbs. Linguistic Variation13.48–80. 10.1075/lv.13.1.02ele
    https://doi.org/10.1075/lv.13.1.02ele [Google Scholar]
  33. Fazly, Afsaneh
    2007 Automatic Acquisition of Lexical Knowledge about Multiword Predicates. Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto.
  34. Fellbaum, Christiane
    1998WordNet: An Electronic Lexical Database. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. URL: https://wordnet.princeton.edu/. 10.7551/mitpress/7287.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.7551/mitpress/7287.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  35. Fillmore, Charles J. , Christopher R. Johnson & Miriam R. L. Petruck
    2002 Background to FrameNet. International Journal of Lexicography, 16:3.235–250. 10.1093/ijl/16.3.235
    https://doi.org/10.1093/ijl/16.3.235 [Google Scholar]
  36. Gárate, Teresa Moralejo
    2003Composite Predicates in Middle English. Munich: Lincom.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Goldberg, Adele
    2006Constructions at Work: The Nature of Generalization in Language. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Hilpert, Martin
    2017 Frequencies in Diachronic Corpora and Knowledge of Language. The Changing English Language: Psycholinguistic Perspectivesed. by Marianne Hundt , Sandra Mollin & Simone E. Pfenninger , 49–68. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/9781316091746.003
    https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316091746.003 [Google Scholar]
  39. Hiltunen, R.
    1999 Verbal Phrases and Phrasal Verbs. Collocational and Idiomatic Aspects of Composite Predicates in the History of Englished. by Laural Brinton & Minoji Akimoto , 167–206. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.47.45hil
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.47.45hil [Google Scholar]
  40. Hoffmann, Sebastian , Marianne Hundt & Joybrato Mukherjee
    2011 Indian English: An Emerging Epicentre? A Pilot Study on Light Verbs in Web-Derived Corpora of South Asian Englishes. Anglia: Zeitschrift für englische Philologie129:3–4.258–280. 10.1515/angl.2011.083
    https://doi.org/10.1515/angl.2011.083 [Google Scholar]
  41. Iglesias-Rábade, L.
    2001 Composite Predicates in Middle English with the Verbs nimen and taken . Studia Neophilologica73:143–163. 10.1080/003932701753401456
    https://doi.org/10.1080/003932701753401456 [Google Scholar]
  42. Jarvis, Scott
    2013 Capturing the Diversity in Lexical Diversity. Language Learning63:87–106. 10.1111/j.1467‑9922.2012.00739.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9922.2012.00739.x [Google Scholar]
  43. Jespersen, Otto
    1942A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles VI. Copenhagen: Allen & Unwin.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Johnson, Keith
    1997 Speech Perception without Speaker Normalization: An Exemplar Model. Talker Variability in Speech Processinged. by Keith Johnson & John W. Mullennix , 145–165. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Karimi-Doostan, Gholamhossein
    1997 Light Verb Constructions in Persian. Doctoral Thesis, Essex University, England.
  46. Kearns, Kate
    2002 Light Verbs in English. URL: www.ling.canterbury.ac.nz/kate/lightverbs.pdf
  47. Koplenig, Alexander
    2015 Using the Parameters of the Zipf-Mandelbrot Law to Measure Diachronic, Lexical, Syntactical, and Stylistic Changes: A Large-Scale Corpus Analysis. Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory14:1.1–34. 10.1515/cllt‑2014‑0049
    https://doi.org/10.1515/cllt-2014-0049 [Google Scholar]
  48. Krenn, Brigitte
    2000 The Usual Suspects: Data-Oriented Models for Identification and Representation of Lexical Collocations. Doctoral Dissertation, Saarland University, Saarbrücken (Germany).
  49. Kunegis, Jérôme , Marcel Blattner & Christine Moser
    2013 Preferential Attachment in Online Networks: Measurement and Explanations. Proceedings of the 5th Annual ACM Web Science Conference, 205–214. 10.1145/2464464.2464514
    https://doi.org/10.1145/2464464.2464514 [Google Scholar]
  50. Kytö, Merja
    1999 Collocational and Idiomatic Aspects of Verbs in Early Modern English. Collocational and Idiomatic Aspects of Composite Predicates in the History of Englished. by Laurel J. Brinton & Minoji Akimoto , 167–206. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.47.53kyt
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.47.53kyt [Google Scholar]
  51. Langacker, Ronald W.
    1987Foundations of Cognitive Grammar I: Theoretical Prerequisites. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. 1991Foundations of Cognitive Grammar: Vol. II. Descriptive Application. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Laporte, Samantha
    2017 Light Verb Constructions in Second-Language Varieties of English: A Corpus-Based Investigation of Nativization in Hong Kong English. Paper presented atLight Verb Constructions in Germanic Languages, Université Saint-Louis, Bruxelles, November 2017.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Live, Anna H.
    1973 The Take-Have Phrasal in English. Linguistics95.31–50.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Magurran, Anne
    2013Measuring Biological Diversity. Oxford: Blackwell.
    [Google Scholar]
  56. Matsumoto, Meiko
    1999 Composite Predicates in Middle English. Collocational and Idiomatic Aspects of Composite Predicates in the History of Englished. by Laurel J. Brinton & Minoji Akimoto , 59–96. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.47.24mat
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.47.24mat [Google Scholar]
  57. Mitchell, David
    2015 Type-Token Models: A Comparative Study. Journal of Quantitative Linguistics22:1.1–21. 10.1080/09296174.2014.974456
    https://doi.org/10.1080/09296174.2014.974456 [Google Scholar]
  58. Miyamoto, Tadao
    2000The Light Verb Construction in Japanese: the Role of the Verbal Noun. John Benjamins. 10.1075/la.29
    https://doi.org/10.1075/la.29 [Google Scholar]
  59. Nosofsky, Robert M.
    1988 Similarity, Frequency, and Category Representation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition14.54–65.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Ninio, Anat
    1999 Pathbreaking Verbs in Syntactic Development and the Question of Prototypical Transitivity. Journal of Child Language26.619–653. 10.1017/S0305000999003931
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0305000999003931 [Google Scholar]
  61. North, Ryan
    2005 Computational Measures of the Acceptability of Light Verb Constructions. Master’s Thesis, University of Toronto.
  62. Quirk, Randolph , Sidney Greenbaum , Geoffrey Leech & Jan Svartvik
    1985A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Perek, Florent & Martin Hilpert
    2017 A Distributional Semantic Approach to the Periodization of Change in the Productivity of Constructions. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics22.490–520. 10.1075/ijcl.16128.per
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ijcl.16128.per [Google Scholar]
  64. Pierrehumbert, Janet
    2002 Word-specific Phonetics. Laboratory Phonology 7ed. by Carlos Gussenhoven & Natasha Warner , 101–39. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 10.1515/9783110197105.101
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110197105.101 [Google Scholar]
  65. Rigney, Daniel
    2010The Matthew Effect: How Advantage Begets Further Advantage. New York: Columbia University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  66. Ronan, Patricia
    2012Make Peace and Take Victory: Support Verb Constructions in Old English in Comparison with Old Irish. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/nss.24
    https://doi.org/10.1075/nss.24 [Google Scholar]
  67. 2014 Light Verb Constructions in the History of English. Corpus Interrogation and Grammatical Patternsed. by Kristin Davidse , Caroline Gentens , Lobke Ghesquière & Lieven Vandelanotte , 15–34. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/scl.63.05ron
    https://doi.org/10.1075/scl.63.05ron [Google Scholar]
  68. Ronan, Patricia & Gerold Schneider
    2015 Determining Light Verb Constructions in Contemporary British and Irish English. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics20.326–354. 10.1075/ijcl.20.3.03ron
    https://doi.org/10.1075/ijcl.20.3.03ron [Google Scholar]
  69. Shahrokny-Prehn, Arian & Silke Höche
    2011 Rising through the Registers: A Corpus-based Account of the Stylistic Constraints on Light Verb Constructions. Corpus10.239–257. 10.4000/corpus.2110
    https://doi.org/10.4000/corpus.2110 [Google Scholar]
  70. Shelley, Percy Bysshe
    1840 A Defence of Poetry. Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragmentsed. by Mary Shelley , 1–57. London: Edward Moxon.
    [Google Scholar]
  71. Stevenson, Suzanne , Afsaneh Fazly & Ryan North
    2004 Statistical Measures of the Semi-Productivity of Light Verb Constructions. Proceedings of the Workshop on Multiword Expressions: Integrating Processing, 1–8. Association for Computational Linguistics. 10.3115/1613186.1613187
    https://doi.org/10.3115/1613186.1613187 [Google Scholar]
  72. Sundquist, John D.
    2018 A Diachronic Analysis of Light Verb Constructions in Old Swedish. Journal of Germanic Linguistics30:3.260–306. 10.1017/S1470542717000137
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1470542717000137 [Google Scholar]
  73. Sundquist, J. D.
    2020 The Rich Get Richer: Preferential Attachment and the Diachrony of Light Verbs in Old Swedish. Historical Linguistics 2017ed. by Bridget Drinka , 344–361. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/cilt.350.16sun
    https://doi.org/10.1075/cilt.350.16sun [Google Scholar]
  74. Suttle, Laura & Adele E. Goldberg
    2011 The Partial Productivity of Constructions as Induction. Linguistics49:6.1237–1269. 10.1515/ling.2011.035
    https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.2011.035 [Google Scholar]
  75. Tanabe, Harumi
    1999 Composite Predicates and Phrasal Verbs in the Paston Letters. Collocational and Idiomatic Aspects of Composite Predicates in the History of Englished. by Laurel J. Brinton & Minoji Akimoto , 87–132. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.47.36tan
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.47.36tan [Google Scholar]
  76. Traugott, Elizabeth Closs
    1999 A Historical Overview of Complex Predicate Types. Collocational and Idiomatic Aspects of Composite Predicates in the History of Englished. by Laurel J. Brinton & Minoji Akimoto , 239–260. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/slcs.47.74clo
    https://doi.org/10.1075/slcs.47.74clo [Google Scholar]
  77. Tu, Yuancheng & Dan Roth
    2011 Learning English Light Verb Constructions: Contextual or Statistical. Proceedings of the Workshop on Multiword Expressions: from Parsing and Generation to the Real World, 31–39. Association for Computational Linguistics.
    [Google Scholar]
  78. Tweedie, Fiona J. & R. Harald Baayen
    1998 How Variable May a Constant Be? Measures of Lexical Richness in Perspective. Computers and the Humanities32:5.323–352. 10.1023/A:1001749303137
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1001749303137 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error