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Binominal Syntagms: Towards a Unified Account
Message 1: Binominal Syntagms: Towards a Unified Account
From: Lieselotte Brems <lieselotte.bremsarts.kuleuven.be>
Subject: Binominal Syntagms: Towards a Unified Account
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Full Title: Binominal Syntagms: Towards a Unified Account
Date: 02-Sep-2010 - 05-Sep-2010
Location: Vilnius, Lithuania
Contact Person: Lieselotte Brems
Meeting Email: lieselotte.bremsarts.kuleuven.be
Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
Call Deadline: 12-Nov-2009
Workshop 'Binominal Syntagms as a Neglected Locus of Synchronic Variation
and Diachronic Change: Towards a Unified Account'
43rd SLE Annual Meeting, to be held in Vilnius, 2-5 September 2010
Call for Papers
The workshop proposal, including a preliminary list of participants and a three
line description of their topics, should be submitted to the SLE Scientific
Committee before November 15, 2009. Therefore we ask potential participants to
send us the provisional titles and short descriptions of their presentations no
later than November 12.
All abstracts should be submitted by the end of December to the submit abstract
form to be found at the SLE website.
Although in recent years various theoretical frameworks have shown an increasing
interest in the semantico-syntactic organization of noun phrases in general,
comparatively little attention has been paid to binominal syntagms. Binominal
syntagms are a type of complex noun phrase attested in many European languages
that involves two nominal elements, possibly linked by means of a linking
element. Most studies so far have focussed on various English '(determiner)
(modifier) NP1 + of + (determiner) (modifier) NP2'-constructions (e.g. Akmajian,
Adrian & Lehrer 1976, Aarts 1998, Keizer 2001, Denison 2002, Brems 2003,
Willemse 2005, Traugott 2008, Langacker forth.), and (less so) on its
equivalents in other Germanic languages, e.g. Dutch (Everaert 1992, Joosten
2003, Rijkhoff 2009) and Romance languages, e.g. Spanish (Verveckken 2007) and
French (Foolen 2004).
The binominal construction poses many descriptive-theoretical challenges to both
formal and cognitive-functional frameworks. A key problem in the literature has
been that of identifying the head of binominal syntagms. Some authors or
reference grammars argue for one analysis that covers all instances of the
binominal construction (Quirk et al. 1985); others consider a distinction
between a syntactic and a semantic head of the construction a useful way out
(Halliday 1994); yet others allow head status to shift between NP1 and NP2 (e.g.
Brems 2003, Traugott 2008). Different semantic and syntactic tests for
determining head status have been proposed in the literature (e.g. Hudson 1987,
Aarts 1998). It would be interesting to address their reliability and
conclusiveness in the workshop.
Another central issue is the question of whether different types of binominals
can be distinguished and on what grounds. Syntactically speaking, binominals may
differ according to the presence or absence of determiners with the second
nominal element (e.g. 'a wonder of a man', 'the book of John', 'heaps of
people'), presence or absence of a linking element (e.g. 'the poet Shakespeare',
'John's book', 'the majority of the guests') and allowing non-nominal elements
in the NP2-slot, e.g. (comparative) adjectives ('loads softer', 'massa's
lekker': lit. "masses tasty", De Clerck & Colleman 2009). From a semantic point
of view, the nominal elements may have referential value (e.g. 'city' in 'a
wonder of a city'), intensifying value (e.g. 'wonder' in 'a wonder of a city'),
possessive value ('the manager's office'), quantifier value ('heaps/lots of' in
'heaps/lots of people'), hedging meaning ('kind of' in 'She is kind of a
groupie'), (es)phoric value ('the lights of a car') etc. Furthermore, different
types of relations between the two nominal elements have been observed (Keizer
2007): modification, complementation, predication, qualification,
quantification. Typically, the traditional typology of binominal syntagms
comprises possessive constructions, partitive constructions, pseudo-partitive
constructions, 'predicative' binominal noun phrases, close appositions, etc. An
important question is whether these constructions can be linked in a
constructional network, with macro-, meso-and micro-level schemas generalizing
over subsets of binominal syntagms.
In addition to the attested synchronic variation, this workshop also wants to
address the claim that binominals are a locus of (ongoing) grammaticalization,
subjectification and decategorialization processes. In some (types) of
binominals, the nominal elements seem to have lost or are losing typically
nominal features such as the potential for pre- and postmodification,
pluralization, etc. (e.g. '*a nice wonder of a city', '*bunches of idiots',
etc.) and may be shifting to the categories of quantifier, intensifier, hedger,
etc. Such issues also touch on interesting concepts such as 'categorial
gradience', i.e. fuzzy boundaries between two or more categories (Denison 2006,
Aarts, Denison, Keizer & Popova 2004). The current variation in binominal
constructions could then be seen as a case of synchronic layering (Hopper &
This workshop aims to arrive at a better understanding of the organization and
development of (different types of) binominal constructions in order to account
for the rich synchronic and diachronic semantico-syntactic variety they harbour.
We particularly welcome empirically based talks that contribute to the
aforementioned theoretical issues. We welcome papers on English as well as on
other languages and contributions may be language-internal or comparative in
nature. The following list sums up possible avenues of thinking that may be
addressed in the talks:
- How can the synchronic variation in binominal syntagms be analyzed
syntactically, semantically, collocationally, etc. in a unified way?
- Are there (partial) syntactic and/or semantic tests to determine headedness
and categorial noun status of the nominal elements in a binominal syntagm and
what is their validity?
- What are possible typologies of binominal syntagms and on what grounds?
- Which kinds of tests can be used to distinguish between types of uses, and
what is their validity (e.g. Rijkhoff 2009)?
- Binominal syntagms as a locus of grammaticalization, e.g. in which paths of
change do binominals engage crosslinguistically?
- Which properties in the binominal as a source construction explain the wide
variety of synchronic variation and potential for diachronic change it displays?
- What can specific theoretical frameworks contribute to the analysis of
binominal syntagms, e.g. cognitive grammar, construction grammar, functional
grammar, usage-based approaches?
- Aarts, Bas. 1998. "Binominal Noun Phrases in English". Transactions of the
Philological Society 96: 117-158.
- Aarts, Bas, David Denison, Eveline Keizer & Gergana Popova. 2004. Fuzzy
Grammar: a reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Akmajian, Adrian and Adrienne Lehrer. 1976. "NP-like quantifiers and the
problem of determining the head of an NP". Linguistic Analysis 2: 395-413.
- Brems, Lieselotte. 2003. "Measure Noun constructions: an instance of
semantically-driven grammaticalization". International Journal of Corpus
Linguistics 8 (2): 283-312.
- De Clerck, Bernard & Timothy Colleman. 2009. "Het was massa's lekker! From
noun to intensifier: massa's in (Flemish) varieties of Dutch". Presentation at
Current Trends in Grammaticalization Research, Groningen, 7-9 October 2009.
- Denison, David. 2002. "History of the sort of construction family". Paper
presented at the Second International Conference on Construction Grammar,
University of Helsinki, 7 September 2002. [Online draft version available at
- Denison, D. 2006. "Category change and gradience in the determiner system." In
Ans Van Kemenade & Bettelou Los, eds. The Handbook of the History of English.
- Everaert, Martin. 1992. "Nogmaals: Een schat van een kind". In Hans Bennis &
Jan W. de Vries, eds. De binnenbouw van het Nederlands: een bundel artikelen
voor Piet Paardekooper. Dordrecht: Foris. 45-54.
- Foolen, Ad. 2004. "Expressive binominal NPs in Germanic and Romance
languages". In Günter Radden & Klaus-Uwe Panther, eds. 75-100. Studies in
Linguistics Motivation. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
- Halliday, Michael A.K. 1994. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. 2nd
edition. London: Arnold.
- Hopper, Paul J. and Elizabeth Closs Traugott. 2003 . Grammaticalization.
Second Edition. [First Edition]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Hudson, Richard A. 1987. "Zwicky on heads". Journal of Linguistics 23: 109-132.
- Joosten, Frank. 2003. Collectiva en Aggregaatsnamen in het Nederlands:
Begripsbepaling en Typologie. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Leuven.
- Keizer, Evelien. 2001. "A classification of sort/kind/type-constructions". Ms.
University College London.
- Keizer, M.E. (2007). The English Noun Phrase: the Nature of Linguistic
Categorization. Cambridge: CUP.
- Langacker, Ronald W. forthcoming a. "A lot of quantifiers". In Sally Rice and
John Newman, eds. Experimental and Empirical Methods (provisional title).
Proceedings from CSDL 2004.
- Quirk, Randolph, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik. 1985.
A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London/ New York: Longman.
- Rijkhoff, J. 2009, 'On the co-variation between form and function of adnominal
possessive modifiers in Dutch and English', in McGregor, W.B. (ed.), The
Expression of Possession (The Expression of Cognitive Categories [ECC] - Volume
2), Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin/New York, pp. 51-106.
- Traugott, Elizabeth Closs. 2008. "The grammaticalization of NP of NP
patterns". In Alex Bergs & Gabriele Diewald, eds. Constructions and Language
Change. Berlin: Mouton. 23-45.
- Verveckken, K. 2007. Grammaticization of Spanish Size Noun-Constructions. A
cognitive perspective. Unpublished Masterpaper. University of Leuven
- Willemse, Peter. 2005. Nominal reference point constructions: possessive and
esphoric NPs in English. Unpublished PhD Thesis. University of Leuven.
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