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Constructionalization and Constructional Changes

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Maria Luiza Braga | Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Maria da Conceição Paiva | Federal University of Rio de Janeiro


This theme session discusses case studies of constructionalization and/or constructional changes of linguistic phenomena. We adopt a constructionalist approach to language change and conceptualize language as a network of constructions and links among them. The concept of network is not limited to the lexicon and is dynamic, which is crucial in explaining linguistic changes.

Constructions are characterized as symbolic pairings of form and meaning and are analyzed according to their size, their degrees of phonological specificity and their types of concept, dimensions which are conceived as being gradient. This means that they can be atomic, complex or intermediate on the level of size; substantive, schematic or intermediate, on the dimension of phonological specificity; and contentful, procedural or intermediate on the dimension of type concept.

Three factors are relevant to the analyses to be presented in this Theme Session: schematicity, productivity and compositionality. Schematicity can be discussed int terms of slots and their filling ; produtivity, according to Bybee (2010) , has to do with frequency, type frequency and token frequency. Traugott and Trousdale quote Barodal (2008) who says that productivity “pertains to (partial) schemas and concerns i) their extensibility , the extent to which they sanction other less schematic contructions, and ii) the extent to which they are constrained” (2013: 17). Compositionality correlates to the transparency of the link between form and meaning. Traugott and Trousdale maintain that in many cases change results in reduced compositionality (op. cit.)

Some of the papers in this Theme Sessions focus on cases of constructionalization, whereas others on constructionals changes and in this regard it is interesting to distinguish these two different types of linguistic changes. According to Traugott and Trousdale (2013),

Constructionalization is the creation of formnew-meaningnew (combinations of) signs. It forms new type nodes, which have new syntax or morphology and new coded meaning in the linguistic network of a population of speakers (2013: 22). Constructional change is a change affecting one internal dimension of a construction. It does not envolve a new node.(2013:26)

In analyzing their phenomena, we are aware of the potential effects of the linguistic change on the reconfiguration of the network and of the fact that change occurs when an innovation first introduced by an individual is replicated in a community.

Keywords: Constructionalization, Constructional Changes, Network, Brazilian Portuguese

Accepted Papers: 

The development of a complex conditional conjunction: the case of (en) (el) caso (de) que in Spanish

Anton Granvik

Constructional changes: a diachronic study of the prepositional phrase por causa de 

Bruno Araújo de Oliveira and Maria da Conceição de Paiva

Binominal Constructions in Portuguese

Karen Sampaio Braga and Roberto de Freitas Junior

Variable particle positioning in English transitive phrasal verbs

Manuela de Oliveira

Brazilian Portuguese Clefts: A Case of Constructionalization?

Maria Luiza Braga, André Cunha and Diego Leite de Oliveira

Constructionalization and Constructional Changes:  The Case Of [Xque] Connector

Maria Maura Cezario and Monique dos Santos

Constructions of Terminative Aspect in Brazilian Portuguese

Rubens Loiola

Constructional Changes: A Diachronic Study Of Porém, Contudo And Todavia

Simone Silva  de Oliveira

On the evolution of constructions: a Brazilian Portuguese case study on [pegar] and [(a)garrar]

Sueli Coelho and Thaís Cristófaro

Grammaticalization and Verb Constructions in Varieties of Portuguese: Intralinguistic Tendencies?

Cristina Carvalho

The development of [SÓ QUE X] in Portuguese language from the perspective of grammatical constructionalization

Patrícia Cunha