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Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association

Editor-in-Chief: Stefanowitsch, Anatol / Herbst, Thomas

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Divergent theories, converging evidence: The constructional semantics of competing future constructions

Stefan Hartmann
Published Online: 2018-11-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/gcla-2018-0005


This paper investigates the alternation between two competing German future constructions, the werden + Infinitive construction and the futurate present, from a usage-based perspective. Two lines of evidence are combined: On the one hand, a pilot corpus study indicates that werden + Infinitive is more likely to be used for referring to distant-future events than to near-future events. However, syntactic factors seem to be at least as decisive as semantic ones for speakers’ choice between the two constructions. On the other hand, an experimental study taps into language users’ interpretation of sentences framed in one of the two constructions. It can be shown that the grammatical framing does not significantly affect participants’ estimates of the temporal distance of the events to which the stimuli sentences refer. This suggests that the meaning differences between the two constructions be more nuanced, e.g. pertaining to discourse-pragmatic functions.

Keywords: future constructions; alternations; corpus linguistics; experimental semantics

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Published Online: 2018-11-28

Published in Print: 2018-11-01

Citation Information: Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association, Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 91–114, ISSN (Online) 2197-2796, ISSN (Print) 2197-2788, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/gcla-2018-0005.

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