Publication details [#54372]

Willems, Dominique, Filip Verroens, Bernard De Clerck and Timothy Colleman. 2011. The syntactic flexibility of (new) verbs of instrument of communication: A corpus-based study. Functions of Language 18 (1) : 57–86.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


In this paper, the structural possibilities of well-established `verbs of instruments of communication' (Levin 1993) such as telephone, fax and telegraph are compared with the syntactic possibilities of recent newcomers to the field such as skype and blackberry. The analysis, which is based on extensive web-based material shows that the structural possibilities of older members are more diverse than reported in previous studies, while the recent Verbs of Instrument of Communication display a set of structural possibilities that is similar to those of the older members, despite their relatively low(er) token frequency. In this way, the data neither entirely refute nor fully corroborate observed links between token frequency (Hollmann 2007) and social distribution (Barðdal 2003, 2008), on the one hand, and syntactic possibilities (e.g. the occurrence in double object constructions), on the other hand. They do show, however, that there is substantial internal variation between individual members of this category in terms of structural preferences, depending on the kinds of events that are depicted. This attested variation also leads us to question the boundaries of this verb category as a whole.