How Novel Constructions Emerge Over Time
Reading Michael Israel’s The Way Constructions Grow taught me some things about how novel constructions actually emerge in a language. I encourage you to check out this classic article.
The -Way construction in present usage has undertaken a sort of functional compression since its earliest usages in the 1300s. Three main functions have been historically tracked in the -way construction usage: motion, path creation, and possession. Motion has been functionally understood in the manner sense
Path creation has been functionally understood as the means sense. Possession is not dealt with in an in depth manner, and Israel focuses on analyzing the convergence of Motion and Path Creation into the modern -way construction.
Here are two examples:
- He chewed his way out of that mess (path creation)
- The dog crawled his way home after getting hit by the truck (motion)
In the beginning the -way construction needed verbs that were related to motion and path creation, but as time went on it began to incorporate verbs that are “marginally or incidentally related to the actual expressed motion.”
The idea is that over time something I call “functional compression” occurred as the generic construction was expanded to include the different functional senses (Motion, Path Creation, Possession), which resulted in an increase in the construction’s productivity. This process was enabled by the use of analogical extensions
Analogical usage and schema abstraction both provide important implications of CogLing approaches. Analogical usage corresponds to the Production Principle which states that utterances should sound like things the speaker has heard before. This is a form of conservatism in the theoretical framework. Schema abstraction corresponds to the Comprehension Principles which states that representations should capture similarities across experienced usages, and assists innovation and novel extension. This idea of compression is important for dealing with a vast exposure to similar tokens of a construction.