English mediopassive constructions

A cognitive, corpus-based study of their origin, spread, and current status


Author: Marianne Hundt
This book provides the first empirical study of the history and spread of mediopassive constructions. It investigates the productivity of the pattern, the spread of the construction in Modern English, and looks into text type-specific preferences for the construction. On a more abstract level, it combines the corpus-based description of mediopassive constructions with cognitive linguistic models, drawing largely on notions such as ‘prototype’, ‘family resemblances’, ‘patch’ and ‘construction’. The theoretical modelling is largely based on data from real texts. These come from publicly available machine-readable corpora, text-databases and a single-register ‘corpus’ (American mail-order catalogues). The study combines the corpus-based approach with cognitive theories and is therefore of interest to both empirical and theoretical linguists.

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Marianne Hundt is Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Heidelberg. She has been involved in the compilation and annotation of several corpora. Her research interests range from the corpus-based description of modern English grammar, ongoing change, regional and diachronic variation in standard and regional Englishes world-wide to grammaticalisation in Late Modern English. She has published various articles on these topics, one monograph (New Zealand English Grammar – Fact or Fiction, 1998) and edited two volumes of corpus-related work.
”As for the productiveness of the mediopassive construction, the author shows impressively how this phenomenon has increased over the last century in the catalogues. That is, the mediopassive construction is very productive in modern advertising, where inherent properties of the goods are explained. In all, the book is a diligent study which offers many new insights and a wealth of examples which demonstrate the gradient character of grammatical categories. Hundt shows that, even at our advanced stage of computerization, semantic and pragmatic studies in corpus linguistics still need an attentive linguist at the (wo)man-machine interface” in: ICAME Journal 32, April 2008
List of tables and figures
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Defining the object of study
Chapter 3: Previous studies
Chapter 4: Theoretical background
Chapter 5: The mediopassive in Present Day English
Chapter 6: The history of mediopassives
Chapter 7: Conclusion
Appendix 1: Primary material
Appendix 2: Sample pages of Sears & Roebucks catalogues
Appendix 3: Additional tables and figures