Productivity, richness, and diversity of light verb constructions in the history of American English
This study provides an empirical analysis of productivity in Light Verb Constructions (LVCs) in the history of American English. LVCs contain a semantically light verb like make or take that may be paired with an abstract nominal object, as in make an assumption or take charge. Using a 406-million word corpus of texts written between 1810 and 2009, we track the frequency of LVCs and analyze the range of light verb + nominal object pairings. Using statistical measurements of biodiversity from the field of ecology, we evaluate the hypothesis that “the rich get richer” among light verbs: the most frequent verbs become more frequent and more diverse, occurring with an ever-growing variety of different NP complements. The results contribute to ongoing discussions in cross-linguistic, diachronic research on reasons for the growth of LVCs, the gradient nature of linguistic productivity, and the role of exemplars in the interaction between type and token frequencies during periods of linguistic change.
Keywords: light verbs, American English, productivity, type and token frequency, lexical diversity, exemplar model
Published online: 08 December 2020
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