Charting ongoing change: the emergent complex subordinators the moment (that) and for fear (that)

Kristin Davidse, Lot Brems, Adam Smith

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This paper seeks to develop an analytical framework for corpus study of emergent complex subordinators (henceforth CSs). We address two main questions. Firstly, how can complex subordinator uses be identified within the synchronic layering of lexical and grammatical meanings found in data concordances? How can we distinguish expressions that have come to conventionally code CS meanings in corpus data from contexts in which the CS meaning is only an inference or only one of two possible readings (Diewald 2006)? That is, how can the semantic, syntactic and categorial changes discussed in the grammaticalization literature be operationalized in corpus study? Secondly, how can we measure and compare the degree of grammaticalization of CSs? To shed light on these questions, we focus on two CSs, the moment and for fear, which derive from preposition + noun + embedded clause, viz. at/from the moment that and for/out of/in/on fear(s) that. They represent two subtypes that diachronic studies have shown to be potential sources of CSs, noun + relative clause, e.g. the while that (Hopper & Traugott 2003), and noun + complement clause, e.g. in order that/to (Łęcki & Nykiel 2016). We show that the data of the two CSs are informative about semantic and syntactic reanalysis and decategorialization in slightly different ways because of the differences in their specific source structures and grammaticalization stages. We propose to measure different degrees of grammaticalization in terms of decategorialized variants and Diewald’s (2006) context types. This allows us to compare the degree of grammaticalization of the moment and for fear as such, as well as differences for each individual CS across varieties (British English, American English, Australian English). The qualitative and quantitative case studies are based on data extracted from the categories BrNews, USNews and OzNews from WordbanksOnline.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationExploring Recent Diachrony
    Subtitle of host publicationCorpus Studies of Lexicogrammar and Language Practices in Late Modern English
    EditorsSebastian Hoffmann, Andrea Sand, Sabine Arndt-Lappe
    PublisherUniversity of Helsinki
    Number of pages25
    Publication statusPublished - May 2017

    Publication series

    NameStudies in variation, contacts and change in English
    ISSN (Electronic)1797-4453


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