On ways of being on the way
Lexical, complex preposition and aspect marker uses
This article presents a case study of a set of constructions containing the related way-nouns road, way, track and route, exemplified by (i) the farm road to the house, (ii) A senior Soviet official is on his way to the Iraqi capital, (iii) spies Burgess and Maclean escaped from Britain en route to Moscow, (iv) Queensland is on track to become the top bowling state in Australia. These distinct constructions are a case of layering (Hopper 1991). Constructions featuring lexical uses of way-nouns, illustrated by (i), coexist with strings containing way-nouns that have been reanalysed into units with new lexical or grammatical meanings, i.e. respectively composite predicates (ii), complex prepositions (iii) and aspectual markers (iv). We argue that these three constructions challenge the view of decategorialization as mere loss of the original categorial features. We also show on the basis of qualitative and quantitative corpus analysis that the structural variants display specialization in relation to the four way-nouns.
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