Edited by Evie Coussé, Peter Andersson and Joel Olofsson
[Constructional Approaches to Language 21] 2018
► pp. 137–168
Reduction or expansion? A bit of both
A case study on the development of German degree modifiers
This paper presents a diachronic analysis of the German quantifier/degree-modifier constructions ein bisschen (‘a bitDIM’) and ein wenig (‘a little’). On the basis of data from two historical corpora, we examine to what extent these constructions followed a grammaticalization path comparable to the one Traugott (e.g. 2008a) observed for their English counterparts. Quantitative analyses on their gradual context expansion are combined with qualitative analyses on potential bridging contexts for reanalysis. Their combined histories suggest that the older German modifiers may have served as attractor sets for an increasingly strengthened mid-level quantifier/degree-modifier schema, promoting the emergence of younger modifiers. These observations stress the crucial role that network links between constructions can play in grammaticalization.
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