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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2022

Complexity in Complementation

Hubert Cuyckens, Lauren Fonteyn and Peter Petré


This paper presents the contours of an innovative study probing the impact of interindividual differences in cognitive representations on long-term population-level language change. Focussing on the system of English verb complementation, the study seeks to offer a unified cognitive and socio-linguistic account of syntactic variation and change that has so far been missing. In particular, it investigates (i) idiolectal variation in the constraints on alternating complementation patterns; (ii) the interaction between the linguistic behaviour of individuals and the (changing) distribution of grammatical variants at the population- level across different time stages. The research is carried out by modelling the observed patterns of stability or diffusion in terms of the weakening and strengthening of grammatical and cognitive constraints within a socially homogeneous group of individuals.

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