The English Reaction Object Construction: A Case of Syntactic constructional Contamination


  • Tamara Bouso Rivas Universitat de les Illes Balears



Diachronic Construction Grammar, ROC, lexical diversity, syntactic constructional contamination, multiple source construction, transitivisation


This paper discusses a case of constructional contamination (Pijpops and Van de Velde 2016; Pijpops et al. 2018), a phenomenon which describes the relation between two or more constructions such that usage frequencies of one construction influence the patterns of variation in another (Hilpert and Flach 2022). Specifically, I investigate the influence of structures of the type she gave a nod of intelligence or she nodded with satisfaction on the variation in the object slot of the so-called English Reaction Object Construction (ROC; Levin 1993), as in she nodded intelligence and she nodded satisfaction. Using the British Sentimental Novel Corpus (Ruano San Segundo and Bouso 2019) and the method of distinctive collexeme analysis (Gries and Stefanowitsch 2004; Hilpert 2006, 2014), it is argued that early and frequent structures superficially similar to the ROC, like those just mentioned, partly explain the lexical diversity found in the object slot of the nineteenth-century ROC (Bouso 2020b). The results thus corroborate findings on the pervasiveness of constructional contamination in English syntax, confirm the claim put forward in Bouso (2021) that the ROC can be treated as an example of a multiple source construction, and provide evidence of the large-scale transitivisation process experienced by the English language since Old English times.


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ARTICLES: Language and linguistics