Degree Resultatives as Second-Order Constructions

Hoeksema, J. & Napoli, D. J., Sep-2019, In : Journal of Germanic Linguistics. 31, 3, p. 225-297 73 p.

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  • Degree Resultatives as Second-Order Constructions

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Resultatives in English and Dutch have developed special degree
readings. These readings stem from a reinterpretation of the resultative
predicate as indicating a high degree rather than an actual result. For
example, when a parent says I love you to death, one need not call the
cops, since the sentence is not about love turning lethal, but merely
indicative of a high degree of affection. Such cases have often been
noted in the literature as idiomatic, but this view ignores the fact that
these are not isolated cases but productive constructions that can be
used with a variety of verbs. We explore various resultative
constructions in English and Dutch, and give a classification of the
subtypes involved as well as their diachronic development from
ordinary to degree interpretation. We link these subtypes to lexical
semantic classes of verbs. Both English and Dutch show a steady
growth in the lexical and structural diversity of degree resultatives
throughout the early modern and contemporary periods (1600–2000).
We focus in our paper on the period 1800–2000, for which we did an
extensive corpus study using the Corpus of Historical American
English (COHA) and Delpher (a collection of digitized Dutch
newspapers, journals, magazines, and other resources). One of our
findings is that, similar to other types of expressive language, such as
degree modification and emphatic negation, taboo expressions play a
role in degree resultatives; in fact, their role is excessive. We outline a
number of the commonalities among the semantic domains of
expressive language used in resultatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-297
Number of pages73
JournalJournal of Germanic Linguistics
Issue number3
Early online date29-Jul-2019
Publication statusPublished - Sep-2019



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