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Academic Paper

Title: A usage-based analysis of phrasal verbs in Early and Late Modern English
Author: Yasuaki Ishizaki
Institution: Nanzan University
Linguistic Field: Historical Linguistics
Subject Language: English
English, Middle
English, Old
Abstract: 'This article presents a historical cognitive analysis of the development of phrasal verbs (PVs) with out and away in Early and Late Modern English. Semantically, PVs in Present-Day English can be classified as being (a) fully compositional (e.g. go out), (b) partially idiomatic, with the particle having an aspectual (i.e. grammatical) function (e.g. work away) and (c) (fully or highly) idiomatic (e.g. make out ‘understand’; see Quirk et al. 1985, Jackendoff 2010). As is clear from this classification, the development of PVs has, at least, involved grammaticalization and idiomatization. However, there is no consensus in recent grammaticalization research on how these two kinds of changes are related.
The literature suggests that the particles used in the partially idiomatic PVs were undergoing grammaticalization in the Old and Middle English periods. Therefore, to understand the semantic and conceptual relationships between partially idiomatic and idiomatic PVs, a closer investigation of the uses of PVs after Early Modern English is in order. In this article, focusing on the distributions of away and out taken from colloquial corpora of Early and Late Modern English, namely, the Corpus of Early English Correspondence Sampler (CEECS) and the Penn Parsed Corpus of Modern British English (PPCMBE), it is shown through descriptive characterizations that the partially idiomatic and idiomatic PVs are instances of idiomatization caused by grammaticalization and by lexicalization, respectively. Based on these observations, the developments of these two types of PVs can be explained by a Usage-Based Model put forth mainly by Langacker (2000) and Bybee (2006, 2010). Specifically, the idiomatization of partially idiomatic PVs involves repeated schema extractions leading to productivity, whereas the idiomatization of fully or highly idiomatic PVs involves the ‘conserving effect’, whereby a highly entrenched linguistic expression with high frequency resists further language change.


This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 16, Issue 2.

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