Edited by Dániel Czicza and Gabriele Diewald
[Constructions and Frames 14:1] 2022
► pp. 13–40
This paper contributes to the study of grammaticalization phenomena from the perspective of Construction Grammar (Coussé et al. 2018). It is concerned with modal uses of the English verb get that express a permitted action, as in The prisoners always get to make one phone call. Different views exist on the contexts in which permissive get emerged. Gronemeyer (1999: 30) suggests that the permissive meaning derives from causative uses (I got him to confess). An alternative is proposed by van der Auwera et al. (2009: 283), who view permissive get as an extension of its acquisitive meaning (I got a present). We revisit these claims in the light of recent historical data from American English. Specifically, we searched the COHA (Davies 2010) for forms of get followed by to and a verb in the infinitive. Besides examples of permissive get, we retrieved examples of obligative got to (I got to leave), causative get (Who did you get to confess?), possessive got (What have I got to be ashamed of?), and a category that we label inchoative get (You’re getting to be a big girl now). Drawing on distributional semantic techniques (Perek 2016, 2018), we analyse how permissive get and inchoative get developed semantically over time. Our results are consistent with an account that represents an alternative to both Gronemeyer (1999) and van der Auwera et al. (2009), namely the idea that permissive get evolved out of inchoative uses that invited the idea of a permission.