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Linguistics Vanguard

A Multimodal Journal for the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Bergs, Alexander / Cohn, Abigail C. / Good, Jeff

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Grammaticalization and the linguistic individual: new avenues in lifespan research

Lynn Anthonissen
  • University of Antwerp, Linguistics Department, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
  • Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Department of English and American Studies, Schellingstr. 3, 80799 Munich, Germany
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Peter Petré
Published Online: 2019-06-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2018-0037


This paper reviews theoretical and methodological advances and issues in lifespan research and discusses how the issues at stake are addressed in an ongoing research project. Summarizing the state of the art, we conclude that next to nothing is known about lifespan changes affecting syntactic or grammaticalizing constructions that goes beyond exploratory or anecdotal evidence. The Mind-Bending Grammars project, which examines the adaptive powers of adult cognition and constraints on these powers, aspires to make headway in this area. In this paper, we introduce some of the major goals of the project and present a new large-scale longitudinal corpus of 50 adults that was established to study grammatical change across the lifespan. Particular attention is paid to the constraints on the adoption of novel grammatical patterns in the aging mind. Taking be going to as a case study, we present evidence that (highly educated) healthy monolingual speakers continue to participate in grammatical innovations across the lifespan.

Keywords: lifespan change; be going to; grammaticalization; longitudinal corpus; language and aging


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About the article

Received: 2018-05-20

Accepted: 2018-12-04

Published Online: 2019-06-22

Funding Source: ERC Horizon 2020 programme

Award identifier / Grant number: 639008

First authorship is shared for this paper. We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this paper. The research reported on in this paper is part of the Mind-Bending Grammars project, which is funded by the ERC Horizon 2020 programme (Funder ID 10.13039/100010663, Project ID 639008; www.uantwerpen.be/mind-bending-grammars/), and is hosted at the University of Antwerp. Both institutions are hereby gratefully acknowledged.

Citation Information: Linguistics Vanguard, Volume 5, Issue s2, 20180037, ISSN (Online) 2199-174X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2018-0037.

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