A corpus-based investigation of language change in Italian
The case of grazie/ringraziare di and grazie/ringraziare per
In Italian, grazie ‘thanks’ and ringraziare ‘to thank’ historically introduce an object by means of the preposition di ‘of’ (Renzi, Salvi & Cardinaletti 1991: 545–548); when grazie and ringraziare introduce a subordinate infinite clause, they may all the same be followed by either di or per ‘for’, the latter being the habitual preposition introducing an implicit causal subordinate (ibid.). In light of these considerations, a general lower frequency of occurrence of collocations with per would be expected. This article argues that, in contemporary Italian, there has been an increase in the use of constructions with per and that such an increase is due to an influence from the English thanks/to thank for. Through diachronic lexicographic, quantitative and qualitative analyses carried out over a range of dictionaries and corpora, this article will show that the frequency of use of forms with per has indeed more than octupled in writing from 1200 to 2011 and more than doubled in speech from 1965 to 2003. Moreover, by analyzing the distribution of the studied constructions in a corpus of dubbed Italian from (American) English, the article will also explore the possibility that language contact with English, mainly via dubbing translations, may have played a concurrent fundamental role motivating such changes.
Keywords: historical corpus linguistics, language change, Italian, diachronic quantitative investigations, English in contact with Italian
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