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Spreading PatternsDiffusional Change in the English System of Complementation$
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Hendrik De Smet

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199812752

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812752.001.0001

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Gerund Complements

Gerund Complements

(p.131) Chapter 7 Gerund Complements
Spreading Patterns

Hendrik De Smet

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents an extensive case study on diffusional change in the system of complementation, focusing on the most dramatic recent change of this kind in the history of English: the emergence of gerunds as verb complements. It shows that diffusion proceeds as a result of new regularities being inferred from existing usage. Generally, a given regularity is worked out in language use in a relatively short time, but no sooner is a regularity applied to a group of environments, than it can trigger some new regularity that again gives rise to new uses (analogical chain). It is also true that by the end of the process of diffusion, environments have to meet fewer conditions to qualify as hosts to the spreading construction (analogical snowball). This means that diffusion becomes easier as it proceeds, even though its progress does not necessarily become quicker. From the historical developments, it is clear that the use of a complement type is not determined by a single principle but is the outcome of a complex interaction between various factors, including different kinds of analogy and blocking.

Keywords:   diffusional change, complementation, verb complements, English language, analogy, blocking

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