On the relationship between argument structure change and semantic change

Bethany J. Christiansen, Brian D. Joseph


Argument structure (AS) and meaning are closely related, but the nature of the relationship is disputed. It is not entirely deterministic, as not all aspects of AS and meaning necessarily match up. Most discussion has focused on theory-internal issues and/or synchronic analysis of argument alternations. We, however, take a diachronic perspective, addressing how change in a verb's AS correlates with meaning and vice-versa, and specifically asking if AS changes first, giving new semantics, or if meaning change triggers a different AS. We study these issues empirically via corpus work on the verb babysit, since it shows interesting changes involving AS and semantics in the relatively shallow diachrony of modern English.


argument structure; semantics; lexical semantics; diachrony; English

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v1i0.3726

Copyright (c) 2016 Bethany J. Christiansen, Brian D. Joseph

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