5dez 2022
06:30 UTC

Constructional contamination meets the ROC

This presentation is part of a larger project on the emergence and development of the so-called English Reaction Object Construction, as in Pauline smiled her thanks. The ROC consists of an intransitive verb of manner of action (e.g. smile) followed by a non-prototypical type of object that expresses a mental state of some kind (e.g. thanks). The result is a transitivising construction with the meaning “express X by V-ing”, as in “Pauline expressed her thanks by smiling”. In earlier research, it has been shown that the history of the ROC is strikingly similar to that of other transitivising constructions, and most particularly, to that of the way-construction, as in She giggled her way up the stairs. Both constructions find their around the Early Modern English period, and both become grammatically stable simultaneously in British English by the early 19th century. In the case of the ROC, the frequent attestation of highly idiosyncratic examples such as The Moor smiled Sweetness suggests a link between its 19th-century consolidation and the British sentimental novel. This potential link was confirmed on the basis of the British Sentimental Novel Corpus (BSNC) and the American section of De Smet’s Corpus of English Novels (CEN). The BSNC also served to identify a set of superficially similar patterns to the ROC: the Complex VP with PP construction as in she nodded with satisfaction, the complex NP with PP construction, as in she gave a nod of intelligence, and the Complex NP with Participle, as in she looked with smiling interest. To judge from their early and frequent attestation in the data, they could have played some role in the diverse configuration of the 19th-century ROC via a mechanism of change known as “constructional contamination”. The aim of this thread is to test the role of these patterns on the shaping and modelling of the 19th-century ROC. The hypothesis is that if the additional elements attested in the ROC are found earlier in (and are significantly associated with) these superficially similar patterns, then we could treat the ROC as a case of constructional contamination in English syntax. Additional historical data was retrieved from the BSNC, CEN and COHA. The author calculated: the overall token frequency of the constructions under analysis, their variability in terms of types, their degree of collocational overlap, and their time-frequency correlations. The results show that the lexical diversity in the object slot of the 19th-century ROC cannot be simply accounted for by its close connection with the British sentimental novel but intralinguistic factors such as the phenomenon of constructional contamination must also have played a role: some lexical variation in the object slot of the ROC is determined by a set of frequent overlapping verb-noun combinations that are strongly associated with the syntactic patterns analysed here.