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Who is the/a/ø professor at your university? A construction-grammar view on changing article use with single role predicates in American English


Hundt, Marianne (2016). Who is the/a/ø professor at your university? A construction-grammar view on changing article use with single role predicates in American English. In: López-Couso, Maria José; Méndez-Naya, Belén; Núñez-Pertejo, Paloma; Palacios-Martínez, Ignacio. Corpus Linguistics on the Move: Exploring and Understanding English Through Corpora. Amsterdam: Brill - Rodopi, 227-258.

Abstract

Predicate nominals designating single role holders like president, prime minister, queen or pope allow for variable article use in English. The default should be that single role holders do not combine with the indefinite article because they do not meet the numerical requirement, i.e. they do not constitute sets with more than one member (even if there is a succession of presidents, queens, etc.). Exceptions to the rule are “cases where two salient construals of the role holder designated by the predicate nominal are possible and, consequently two article patterns exist side by side” (Berezowski, 2009: 132). These construals are often motivated by extra-linguistic facts, like different religious traditions. But Berezowski’s study also shows that there is lexical variation as well as variation according to the copula verb used in the construction. In this chapter, I use data from the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA) to investigate variable article use with single role predicate nominals in twentieth-century American English. Corpus data show that there is diachronic variation: a general tendency towards greater use of definite and indefinite articles in these constructions. However, there is also considerable lexical variation. Variable rule analysis further shows that different factors (such as copula verb, lexical item and modification within the NP) play a role for article use, but they do so in varying degrees for different lexical items. A construction grammar account is used to explain how single role predicate construals can be extended to nouns like teacher and father.

Predicate nominals designating single role holders like president, prime minister, queen or pope allow for variable article use in English. The default should be that single role holders do not combine with the indefinite article because they do not meet the numerical requirement, i.e. they do not constitute sets with more than one member (even if there is a succession of presidents, queens, etc.). Exceptions to the rule are “cases where two salient construals of the role holder designated by the predicate nominal are possible and, consequently two article patterns exist side by side” (Berezowski, 2009: 132). These construals are often motivated by extra-linguistic facts, like different religious traditions. But Berezowski’s study also shows that there is lexical variation as well as variation according to the copula verb used in the construction. In this chapter, I use data from the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA) to investigate variable article use with single role predicate nominals in twentieth-century American English. Corpus data show that there is diachronic variation: a general tendency towards greater use of definite and indefinite articles in these constructions. However, there is also considerable lexical variation. Variable rule analysis further shows that different factors (such as copula verb, lexical item and modification within the NP) play a role for article use, but they do so in varying degrees for different lexical items. A construction grammar account is used to explain how single role predicate construals can be extended to nouns like teacher and father.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
08 University Research Priority Programs > Language and Space
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:June 2016
Deposited On:15 Apr 2016 17:08
Last Modified:09 May 2016 08:29
Publisher:Brill - Rodopi
Series Name:Language and Computers
ISSN:0921-5034
ISBN:9789004308077
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004321342_012
Related URLs:http://www.brill.com/products/book/corpus-linguistics-move (Publisher)

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