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4 - Constructional change in word formation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 May 2013

Martin Hilpert
Affiliation:
Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland
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Summary

This chapter turns to processes of word formation and to the question of how changes in derivational morphology can be analyzed from the perspective of Construction Grammar. Booij (2010) has recently developed a constructional approach to morphology that holds a number of important implications for the present work. Central to a constructional understanding of derivational morphology is the idea that word formation processes are represented as cognitive schemas. It is thus assumed that speakers generalize over sets of words such as baker, buyer, runner, seller, and speaker and arrive at the schema shown in (1), which allows them to produce new coinages.

(1) [[x]V er]N ‘one who Vs’ (Booij 2010: 2)

Morphological schemas are conceptually similar to word formation rules (Plag 2003: 30), but defining these schemas as constructions facilitates in several ways the description of their properties. First, word formation processes exhibit multiple restrictions in terms of form and function of their constituents; these can be inscribed directly in the constructional poles of structure and meaning. Having rich, frequency-sensitive information on form and meaning available within the schema can explain prototype effects, such as the intuition that runner is a better example of the schema in (1) than stander ‘one who stands.’ Second, re-casting word formation rules as constructions allows an analysis of the interrelations between different word formation processes, notably between schemas and their subschemas, between schemas that unify to create a new word formation process, and between paradigmatically related schemas (Booij 2010: 50). Each of these relations is briefly discussed below.

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Constructional Change in English
Developments in Allomorphy, Word Formation, and Syntax
, pp. 110 - 154
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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