Chapter in:English Noun Phrases from a Functional-Cognitive Perspective: Current issues
Edited by Lotte Sommerer and Evelien Keizer
[Studies in Language Companion Series 221] 2022
► pp. 236–275
Premodification in X-is constructions
Fact and point
Although most studies on the X-is construction (thing-is, fact-is, point-is, etc.) acknowledge that premodification is allowed, very little attention has been paid to this property of the construction. Focusing on instances with the head nouns fact and point, this paper seeks to find out which premodifiers can be found in these constructions, and how the development of the construction from a fully specificational copular sentence with a referential subject NP to a non-specificational semi-fixed focus marker affects the type and range of premodifiers allowed. On the basis of data from the British National Corpus (Davies 2004), a number of tendencies and restrictions are identified in terms of (i) token and type frequencies of the premodifiers, as well as type-token-ratio (TTR), and (ii) the class and function of the premodifiers. It is concluded that, as constructionalization takes place, the premodifier position becomes constrained. In addition, it is shown that non-specificational constructions clearly prefer subjective modifiers, which, due to an increase in scope, come to serve a different function (e.g. attitudinal, intensifying, or downtoning). It is argued that the changes observed follow from the gradual changes taking place in the internal structure of the constructions in question. Finally, the theory of Functional Discourse Grammar is used to capture these changes and to explain the consequences of these changes both for the fact-is and point-is constructions in general and for the classes of premodifiers allowed (or preferred).