Productivity, constructionalization and expressive constructions. Tracking productivity shifts in 19th to 21st century Belgian and Netherlandic Dutch

Start - End 
2016 - 2016 (ongoing)



The project focuses on shifts in the productivity of two clusters of constructions in Belgian and Netherlandic Dutch over the last two centuries. The linguistic phenomena under investigation are: (i) patterns such as een schat van een kind (lit. a treasure of a child ‘a sweet child’) and een draak van een wedstrijd (lit. a dragon of a game ‘a boring game’), which express a kind of metaphorical comparison (‘a child like a treasure’), and (ii) patterns such as Hij piekerde zich dood (lit. He worried himself dead) and Hij zweette zich een ongeluk (lit. He sweated himself an accident) which do not describe a situation in which someone actually dies or has an accident, but rather express that the activity denoted by the verb is carried out to excess (i.e. ‘He worried/sweated very much’). Both constructions are expressive in meaning, and both display an interesting mix of “fixedness” and “openness”. For instance, while we can both say Hij lachte zich een ongeluk and Hij werkte zich een ongeluk (‘He laughed/worked very hard’), the possibilities of een hoedje (‘a little hat’) are much more constrained: Hij lachte zich een hoedje is fine but Hij werkte zich een hoedje is very odd. There are indications that such constraints have relaxed over time, i.e. that the constructions are more productive now than they were in 19th and early 20th C Dutch. The investigation of such shifts in productivity can shed important new light on the recent theoretical concept of “constructionalization”.



Phd Student(s)