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An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Gast, Volker

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 1.066

CiteScore 2018: 0.97

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Volume 51, Issue 1


Functional layering and the English progressive

Svenja Kranich
Published Online: 2013-01-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2013-0001


In this article, it will be argued that the concept of functional layering – an extension of Hopper's (1991) concept of layering – can be fruitfully applied to understand the mechanisms behind the sometimes large and messy looking synchronic picture of diverse meanings which one and the same construction can fulfill at a particular point in time. The concept will be used to account for the meaning spectrum of the present-day English progressive, which, it will be argued, no monosemic approach to date can account for. Taking a look at the diachrony of the construction will help to reveal that the various “exceptions” found in the use of the progressive can be understood as reflections of different stages in its development. Older, less grammaticalized or less well-defined usage patterns thus often survive in certain restricted niches next to the newer, more grammaticalized or more clear-cut functions, representing different diachronic layers. In addition to this diachronic motivation for synchronic meaning variety, the article will also address the crucial question of how a present-day hearer of a progressive form is able to decode the specific meaning intended by the speaker based on contextual clues. The article ends with some suggestions for further applications of the concept of functional layering.

Keywords: grammaticalization; subjectification; semantic change; the English progressive construction; polysemy

About the article

Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Potsdam, Am Neuen Palais 10, D-14469 Potsdam, Germany

Published Online: 2013-01-05

Published in Print: 2013-01-04

Citation Information: , Volume 51, Issue 1, Pages 1–32, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2013-0001.

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