Idiomatic singleton or prototype? A productivity analysis of be-adj-and-v

  • 1 Université de Neuchâtel
Susanne Flach


This article addresses the morphological constraint on the ‘formulaic frame’ be-sure-and-v (Be sure and wear flowers in your hair!), whose idiomatic reading disappears in inflected uses (*She was sure and wore flower in her hair). This constraint also applies to certain verbal patterns (go/come-v, try-and-v) and is at least probabilistic for others (wait and see, go-and-v). A recent usage-based approach suggests that the so-called Bare Stem Condition follows from the semantics of the affected patterns, which are schematically non-assertive and thus functionally inappropriate for use in inflected, assertive environments. The same can be shown to apply to hortative be-sure-and-v, suggesting that the morphological behaviour of both verbal and adjectival pseudo-coordination have the same underlying functional-semantic constraint motivation.

Supporting evidence comes from the status of be-sure-and-v relative to instantiations of the pattern: rather than being an idiosyncratic, isolated idiom, be-sure-and-v is a subtype of a moderately productive be-adj-and-v construction (be honest and admit, be patient and wait). Be-adj-and-v shows many of the characteristics of other pseudo-coordinated constructions, including the combination of semantically coherent slots fillers (flexible–adapt, glad–rejoice) and the asymmetric framing of single events. Methodologically, the article showcases how Collostructional Analyses can be used as diagnostic tools to identify (sub)types and slot-filler consistency in a bottom-up fashion, separating schema instantiations from syntagmatic ‘noise’ (i.e., the compositional adjectival predicate, My raspberries are ripe and taste delicious). Thus, the method identifies (and confirms) be-sure-and-v as the morphological, semantic, and statistical prototype of the more general schema.

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The Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association documents the exchange of ideas in the Cognitive Linguistics research community and related fields, not just in Germany but all over the world. It brings together researchers from a variety of theoretical and methodological frameworks, whose work is informed by a broad view of language both as an integral part of human cognition and as a set of socially situated communicative practices.