Idioma: Español
Fecha: Subida: 2021-04-14T00:00:00+02:00
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The desemantisation of German kommen and the emergence of light verb constructions (...)

Jens Fleischhauer and Stefan Hartmann (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)

Descripción

Light verb constructions are complex predicates consisting of a semantically light verb and a
phrasal element (either an NP (1a) or a PP as in (1b)). In its light use, the verbal element is not
expressing the same predicational content as in its non-light (‘heavy’) use. As a heavy verb,
kommen ‘come’ expresses the motion of its subject referent to a (deictic) goal (2). In its light use,
kommen does not express motion but basically adds a meaning component of inchoation to the
event denoted by the PP-internal noun; an event of voting or concluding in the case of (1b).
(1) a. eine Antwort geben ‘give an answer’, eine Frage stellen ‘ask a question’ (lit. a
question put)
b. zur Abstimmung kommen ‘come to a vote’ (lit. to.the vole come), zum Abschluss
kommen ‘to draw a conclusion’ (lit. to.the conclusion come)
(2) Der Hund kommt in den Garten.
‘The dog is coming into the garden.’
Synchronically, the verb kommen shows light as well as heavy uses. Also it is well-known that
light verb constructions already existed in earlier stages of the German language (e.g. Tao, 1997),
there is so far no systematic study on their origin. We propose that the light use of kommen
is derived from is heavy use since the meaning of ‘inchoation’ is metaphorically related to the
meaning of ‘motion towards a goal.’ Therefore, we assume that kommen started as a heavy
verb and that its light use resulted from a succeeding process of desemantisation. Our basic
assumption is that before light verb constructions start to emerge, we find increasing uses of
kommen with more and more abstract nouns in PP-internal position.
To investigate this hypothesis empirically, we draw on a sample of 500 attestations each
(balanced for time slices) from the Reference Corpus of Middle High German (Klein et al.,
2016), the Reference Corpus of Early New High German (Dipper & Wegera, 2020) as well as the
German Reference Corpus (DeReKo, see Kupietz et al. 2010).
All attestations are coded systematically for a) animacy of the subject, b) presence or absence
of a PP, c) animacy of the referent of the noun within the PP. Preliminary results based on the
Middle High German and New High German data show a clear shift towards inanimate and even
more importantly abstract referents in both positions, which substantiates our hypothesis that the
metaphorical use has become more prevalent. Furthermore, the use of light verb constructions
becomes more extensive, if the use of abstract nouns in both arguments positions of kommen
becomes more frequent. Thus, there is evidence for the view that the light use of kommen is the
outcome of a desemantisation process which is visible in the diachronic language data.

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Serie: CILC2021: Lexicología y lexicografía basadas en corpus / Corpus-based lexicology and lexicography (+información)