Evie Coussť

Verb constructions in the recent history of Dutch. A constructional network perspective

Swedish Research Council, 2014-2026
Evie Coussť (PI), Gerlof Bouma

In order to more fully understand how new grammar emerges, we need to go beyond studying the creation of individual grammatical constructions, and address how new constructions get connected to each other and together build larger grammatical networks. In this project, we more specifically aim to uncover how verb constructions build a network in the recent history of Dutch.

Our hypothesis is that verb constructions are converging in their grammatical behavior, which makes them more similar to each other, and connects them in an emerging grammatical network. In order to test our hypothesis, we aim to:

Aim 1: Trace back the grammatical behavior of verb constructions in the recent history of Dutch
Aim 2: Build a network model showing how verb constructions get connected to each other through similarity

We tackle these specific aims by building on recent research of ours. To achieve the first aim, we conduct a large-scale corpus study, in which we automatically extract and annotate all verb constructions and their grammatical properties from a large corpus of historical magazines published in the last two hundred years. To reach the second aim, we go beyond the traditional framework of grammaticalization theory, and elaborate on the concept of constructional network in diachronic construction grammar.

More information on https://www.gu.se/en/research/verb-constructions-in-the-recent-history-of-dutch-a-constructional-network-perspective.

Cassandra: Explaining and predicting short-term language change in Contemporary Swedish

Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation, 2021-2024
Alexandrs Berdicevskis (PI), Yvonne Adesam, Evie Coussť, Nina Tahmasebi

The main purpose of the Casssandra project is to perform a rigorous quantitative test of the explanatory power of theories about language change by measuring their predictive accuracy. We achieve this by using very large corpora of Swedish social media that contain linguistically annotated data for the last 20 years. The corpora were created and are maintained at SprŚkbanken Text. We explore whether changes beyond the word level, such as shifts in the distribution of word order frequencies or other syntactic patterns, may be uncovered in the short time span of our corpus. We calculate diachronic trajectories of these and other phenomena, split each trajectory into "seen" and "unseen" parts and try to predict the unseen part from the seen. Predictions rely on existing hypotheses about the mechanisms of change and use both linguistic and social information (e.g., the structure of the social network that the users are part of). We also perform a more ambitious test and make predictions about future changes in this register of Swedish.

More information on https://spraakbanken.gu.se/en/projects/cassandra.

The rise of complex verb constructions in Germanic

Swedish Research Council, 2018-2021 (extended to 2023)
Evie Coussť (PI), Gerlof Bouma, Nicoline van der Sijs, Trude Dijkstra, Dirk-Jan de Kooter

The project is situated in the field of historical linguistics. It addresses an understudied case of language change: the rise of complex verb constructions in Germanic. This development is present in all Germanic languages, yet the exact outcome of the change is different for each individual language, leading to cross-linguistic variation. The project aims to increase our factual knowledge of the rise of complex verb constructions in Germanic, with an empirical focus on English, Dutch, German and Swedish. It also aims to enhance our understanding of the process of constructional complexificationí which is hypothesized to lie behind the rise of complex verb constructions. The project investigates both language internal and external motivations and mechanisms of complexification combining the frameworks of diachronic construction grammar and comparative linguists. Methodologically, it introduces the use of parallel corpora in historical linguistics, compiling a multilingual parallel corpus of historical Bible translations, which will be made available for other diachronic research after the completion of the project.

More information on https://spraakbanken.gu.se/en/projects/complex-verb-constructions.

Revision of the Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst (General Dutch Grammar)

Dutch Language Institute, 2021-2022
Maaike BeliŽn (coordinator), Evie Coussť

Algemene Nederlandse Spraakkunst (General Dutch Grammar) is a reference grammar of Dutch that has been widely used by linguists and the general audience alike since its first edition in 1984, followed by a revised edition in 1997. The Dutch Language Union has now initiated a third revision in order to update the second edition and to make it freely available online via https://e-ans.ivdnt.org/. I have received funding from the Dutch Language Institute to revise chapter 18 on the verbal phrase.

More information on https://e-ans.ivdnt.org/.

The emergence of periphrastic verb constructions in Dutch. A construction grammar approach to language change

Swedish Research Council, 2013-2015
Evie Coussť (PI)

A major topic in the historical study of grammar is the emergence of periphrastic verb constructions in the Germanic and Romance languages. A classical example is the emergence of the periphrastic 'have' perfect (a) out of a possessive construction as in (b).

(a) I have packed my suitcase.
(b) I have my suitcase packed and ready.

This development is traditionally considered to be a typical case of grammaticalization, a unidirectional process whereby a lexical item (e.g. the possessive verb 'have') gradually loses its lexical meaning and starts to fulfill a grammatical function (e.g. the auxiliary 'have').

The project develops an alternative approach within the innovative framework of diachronic construction grammar, tackling formal and/or semantic changes within both the auxiliary and the past participle. To this purpose, the emergence of three periphrastic verb constructions in Dutch (i.e. the perfect/passive with auxiliaries 'have', 'be' and 'become') are studied empirically in a corpus of historical Dutch texts from the period 1250-2000.

The project aims to generate: