Contentful constructionalization

Elizabeth Closs Traugott, Graeme Trousdale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a constructionalization framework for thinking about the development of contentful (“lexical”) constructions over time. This framework incorporates and goes beyond earlier work on lexicalization, which largely focuses on reduction in the form of specific lexical items. A constructionalist perspective draws attention to meaning as well as form, and to schemas as well as specific micro-constructions. Contentful constructionalization involves expansion as well as reduction, as evidenced by the rise of schemas and the specific constructions they license, for example word-formation schemas such as nominals ending in -hood (e.g. brotherhood) and snowclone schemas (e.g. X BE the new Y). We partially confirm and also extend earlier arguments that, although they have different outputs, lexicalization and grammaticalization result from similar processes of change. However, there are differences. For example, only minimal local, rather than extensive syntactic, expansion is typically involved. Once a contentful schema has come into being the new expressions it sanctions are coined instantaneously rather than gradually.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-283
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Historical Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • procedural constructions
  • word formation
  • contentful constructions
  • reduction
  • snowclones
  • schemas
  • constructionalization
  • expansion
  • grammaticalization
  • lexicalization


Dive into the research topics of 'Contentful constructionalization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this