Reviewed by Thomas Hoffmann, University of Regensburg
Although Germanic future constructions have already received considerable attention in the literature, Martin Hilpert’s book offers new insights into their grammaticalization by drawing on synchronic and diachronic corpus data. Adopting a usage-based construction grammar approach, H argues that the investigation of the nonfinite verb slot can yield important clues to the diachronic grammaticalization path as well as to potential synchronic modal meanings of future constructions.
Ch. 1 (1–12) provides a concise introduction to H’s theoretical assumptions and hypotheses as well as an overview of important controversies concerning future constructions.
In Ch. 2 (13–48), H offers a more in-depth introduction to construction grammar and the theoretical issues concerning the future tense and the grammaticalization of future constructions. Moreover, H discusses his quantitative corpus linguistic methodology (including information on the corpora that were used as well as the statistical approach that was employed to identify significant nonfinite verb collocates of the various future markers, i.e. collostructional analysis).
Next, the collocational differences in future constructions within the same language (e.g. ska ‘shall’ vs. komma att ‘come to’ in modern Swedish and shall vs. will in diachronic corpora of English) are investigated in Ch. 3 (49–87). As H argues, collostructional analyses can unearth significant semantic differences as well as differences in the grammaticalization path of competing future constructions.
Following this, Ch. 4 (89–123) moves on to a cross-linguistic comparison of cognate future constructions (e.g. Danish ville vs. English will and Dutch gaan vs. English be going to) to exemplify universal as well as language-specific developments in grammaticalization.
In Ch. 5 (125–55), H illustrates how his collostructional approach can also challenge standard assumptions about the grammaticalization path of future constructions: Swedish komma att, for example, is shown to have developed via an intermediate inchoative meaning and not as predicted by standard accounts via a stage of intention. Moreover, diachronic data on German werden ‘become’ indicate that temporal meanings predate intentional meanings, which again argues against the claim that future meanings necessarily evolve out of an earlier intermediate stage of expressing intention.
Ch. 6 (157–79) examines futurate present constructions, such as the use of present tense to refer to future events in English and German. Despite similarities (e.g. a preference for perfective and scheduled future events), H finds significant differences between the two languages. It is especially these language-specific collocational preferences that lead H to deduce that futurate presents are not just contextual, pragmatic devices but in fact constructions with a conventionalized semantic meaning.
Finally, Ch. 7 (181–86) gives a short summary of H’s main empirical findings and their implication for grammaticalization accounts of future constructions.
Germanic future constructions presents a new approach to a well-studied phenomenon that offers many new insights into the grammaticalization of future constructions. The combination of corpus linguistic methods and construction grammar theory thus is an approach that holds great potential for grammaticalization studies in general, and it can only be hoped that this approach is applied to many other phenomena in the near future.