Constructionalization (the diachronic creation of conventional symbolic units at different levels of schematicity and complexity) is a process which involves a series of micro-changes at different linguistic levels. The development of what with constructions in English is argued to be a case of grammatical constructionalization, whereby aspects of a construction become more general, productive, and less compositional. Equally, parts of the construction become more fixed (involving a reduction in variability), while other parts of the construction expand. The application of principles of construction grammar to aspects of diachronic change helps to clarify the relationship between theoretical principles of language change and the analysis of naturally occurring data; equally, the study of the what with construction reveals areas of potential convergence between formal and functional approaches to syntactic change, as well as areas of difference.
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