Construction morphology

In the second section of the volume, the constructional approach to grammar is extended to the field of morphology. While it is a crucial assumption of constructionist linguistics that there is no fundamental distinction between words and morphemes on the one hand and multi-word grammatical patterns on the other, grammar being a vast repository of conventionalized form/meaning-pairings of varying levels of formal complexity, it can also be observed that the attention of construction grammarians has always been primarily focused on the upper and middle parts of the lexicon-syntax cline, i.e. on phrasal and clause-level constructions. Until very recently, in-depth constructionist analyses of morphological phenomena were in fact scarce. The chapters in this section both take the landmark publication on construction morphology by Booij(2010) as their point of departure, while embarking upon new territory through a comparative outlook, as in the chapter by Booijand Huning, or by the application of construction morphology to language history, as in the chapter by Scott.

In their chapter on ‘Affixoids and constructional idioms’, Geert Booijand Matthias Huning discuss the category of affixoids, i.e. compound constituents with an affix-like behaviour as in the German case of fahig ‘able’. This occurs in complex adjectives such as veranderungsfahig ‘able to change’, where the original meaning of the adjective is maintained. There are, however, also examples such as kreditfahig ‘fit for getting credit’, where a related though different meaning occurs, which is restricted to complex words. Booij and Huning argue that it is not necessary to introduce a new category such as affixoid to account for such phenomena. Instead, they argue that research on affixoids has illustrated that there is no sharp distinction between derivation and compounding. Affixes and lexical words are at the two ends of a scale and the same is true for the two word formation processes, i.e. derivation and compounding. In between, there are formations with properties of both sides. While affixoid may be a useful descriptive term for the bound meanings of words when embedded in complex words, their behaviour can be insightfully accounted for within the framework of construction morphology, which does not make an absolute distinction between compounding and derivation. From a constructionist point of view, affixoids can be characterized as the lexically specified parts of so-called constructional idioms, that is, subschemas for compounding that are partially lexically fixed, with specific semantic properties. This analysis of affixoids fits into a conception of the lexicon as hierarchical, with different layers of abstraction at which the word formation possibilities of a language are specified.

Alan Scott, in his chapter on ‘The survival and use of case morphology in Modern Dutch’, discusses relics in present-day Dutch of the language’s now defunct case system, in particular the use of what once were regular genitive forms in examples such as een nieuw hoofdstuk in de geschiedenis der verkeer- stechnologie ‘lit. a new chapter in the history of the:GEN traffic-technology’. Scott uses a usage-based diachronic approach in order to account for the survival of this piece of case morphology into Modern Dutch, incorporating corpus analyses from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Dutch up to the present day. He analyzes how constructions with der became isolated from a dying case system and reinterpreted as an open frame construction within which, unexpectedly, agreement morphology was preserved. Building on Booij(2010), Scott suggests that the construction in question involves a non-canonical type of construction- dependent morphology. Having offered an account of the survival of der in the history of Dutch, Scott goes on to discuss the use of constructions with der in present-day language. It turns out that in present-day Dutch, constructions with der constitute a stylistic tool mainly used in specific registers and contexts, which Scott interprets as an example of the interplay of construction morphology and (morpho-)pragmatics.

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