Edited by Lotte Sommerer and Elena Smirnova
[Constructional Approaches to Language 27] 2020
► pp. 142–166
Productivity and schematicity in constructional change
In Diachronic Construction Grammar, many instances of language change can be captured in terms of variation in the schematicity and productivity of constructions. These two notions are often thought to be interrelated, which suggests that they might be collapsed and treated as essentially the same property. By contrast, this paper argues that schematicity and productivity, while related, should be kept separate and considered in their own right. Cases are reported from the literature showing that the relation between schematicity and productivity is at best indirect. It is argued that a distinction should be made between the schematicity of lexical slots inside a particular construction and the schematicity of the constructional meaning itself. Only the former is directly related to productivity. The latter may or may not be, and if so, only in very specific ways that can be assessed not by looking merely at the lexical items attested in the slots of the construction, but only by examining the semantics of earlier uses in their entirety. To illustrate this idea, a case study of recent change in the abstract uses of the way-construction is reported on, in which the increasing range of abstract verbs can be related to an increase in the variety of abstract situations conceptualized as motion in uses of the construction. This is interpreted as an increase in the schematicity of the motion component of the constructional meaning.