Edited by Maurizio Gotti, Marina Dossena and Richard Dury
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 295] 2008
► pp. 23–48
The Old English copula weorðan and its replacement in Middle English
With the aid of a specially compiled corpus, this paper accounts for the replacement – mainly by become – of weorðan ‘become’, whose use rapidly decreased in Middle English. Drawing on Goldbergian construction grammar, the paper posits the existence of a lexeme-independent network of copular constructions [Copula + np/ap/…]. Copular uses of weorðan are associated with this network, but also form part of a second network exclusive to weorðan, which, already in Old English, served as a model for the extension of becuman to copular uses. In early Middle English, weorðan reacted to changes in the lexeme-independent copular network. Weorðan was no longer used with adjectival participles when these were constructionally separated from its most frequent collocates, namely human propensity adjectives. Furthermore, reacting to an influx of various adjectives in predicate position, becuman, which had no collocational preferences, extended its use to these adjectives and eventually took over from weorðan completely.
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