A reflection on constructionalization and constructional borrowing, inspired by an emerging Dutch replica of the ‘time’-away construction
While recent years have seen an increased interest for the potential effects of language contact on the formal and/or semantic properties of constructions, existing case studies of (potentially) contact-induced change in individual constructions (e.g. Pietsch 2010; Höder 2012, 2014; Van de Velde and Zenner 2010; Colleman and Noël 2014, etc.) have so far made little impact on the booming field of diachronic construction grammar at large, i.e. they have stayed largely under the radar of constructionist theorizing about language change. The present paper reflects on the theoretical significance of a recent innovation in Dutch, viz. the emergence of an argument structure construction that mirrors the form and semantics of the English ‘time’-away construction first described in Jacken-doff (1997). While it is fairly uncontroversial that English influence has something to do with this innovation, it is by no means easy to determine exactly what has happened. Even though an alternative scenario, in which the new Dutch pattern developed out of pre-existing Dutch pattern featuring weg ‘away’, cannot be ruled out, I will argue that one plausible way of accounting for the observed facts is to assume that a ready-made English form-meaning unit was copied into Dutch. On this view, the observed change would count as an instance of instantaneous grammatical constructionalization.