call for papers: workshop at SLE 43 'Binominal syntagms as a neglected locus of synchronic variation and diachronic change: Towards a unified approach'

Lot Brems Lieselotte.Brems at
Tue Nov 3 11:50:41 UTC 2009

Workshop proposal 'Binominal syntagms as a neglected locus of synchronic variation and diachronic change: Towards a unified approach'

Recent Call for Papers

Call Deadline: 12-Nov-2009
43rd Annual Meeting of SLE (Societas Linguistica Europaea), Vilnius, 2-5 September 2010

Call for Papers

Lieselotte.Brems at<mailto:Lieselotte.Brems at>
Bernard.declerck at<mailto:Bernard.declerck at>
Katrien.Verveckken at<mailto:Katrien.Verveckken at>

Time Frame:

The workshop proposal, including a preliminary list of participants and a three line description of their topics, should be submitted to the SLE Scientific Committee before November 15, 2009. Therefore we ask potential participants to send us the provisional titles and short descriptions of their presentations no later than November 12 to lieselotte.brems at
All abstracts should be submitted by the end of December to the submit abstract form to be found at the SLE website.

Although in recent years various theoretical frameworks have shown an increasing interest in the semantico-syntactic organization of noun phrases in general, comparatively little attention has been paid to binominal syntagms. Binominal syntagms are a type of complex noun phrase attested in many European languages that involves two nominal elements, possibly linked by means of a linking element. Most studies so far have focussed on various English '(determiner) (modifier) NP1 + of + (determiner) (modifier) NP2'-constructions (e.g.  Akmajian, Adrian & Lehrer 1976, Aarts 1998, Keizer 2001, Denison 2002, Brems 2003, Willemse 2005, Traugott 2008, Langacker forth.), and (less so) on its equivalents in other Germanic languages, e.g. Dutch (Everaert 1992, Joosten 2003, Rijkhoff 2009) and Romance languages, e.g. Spanish (Verveckken 2007) and French (Foolen 2004).

The binominal construction poses many descriptive-theoretical challenges to both formal and cognitive-functional frameworks. A key problem in the literature has been that of identifying the head of binominal syntagms. Some authors or reference grammars argue for one analysis that covers all instances of the binominal construction (Quirk et al. 1985); others consider a distinction between a syntactic and a semantic head of the construction a useful way out (Halliday 1994); yet others allow head status to shift between NP1 and NP2 (e.g. Brems 2003, Traugott 2008). Different semantic and syntactic tests for determining head status have been proposed in the literature (e.g. Hudson 1987, Aarts 1998). It would be interesting to address their reliability and conclusiveness in the workshop.
Another central issue is the question of whether different types of binominals can be distinguished and on what grounds. Syntactically speaking, binominals may differ according to the presence or absence of determiners with the second nominal element (e.g. a wonder of a man, the book of John, heaps of people), presence or absence of a linking element (e.g. the poet Shakespeare, John's book, the majority of the guests) and allowing non-nominal elements in the NP2-slot, e.g. (comparative) adjectives (loads softer, massa's lekker: lit. 'masses tasty', De Clerck & Colleman 2009). From a semantic point of view, the nominal elements may have referential value (e.g. city in a wonder of a city), intensifying value (e.g. wonder in a wonder of a city), possessive value (the manager's office), quantifier value (heaps/lots of in heaps/lots of people), hedging meaning  (kind of in She is kind of a groupie), (es)phoric value (the lights of a car) etc. Furthermore, different types of relations between the two nominal elements have been observed (Keizer 2007): modification, complementation, predication, qualification, quantification. Typically, the traditional typology of binominal syntagms comprises possessive constructions, partitive constructions, pseudo-partitive constructions, 'predicative' binominal noun phrases, close appositions, etc. An important question is whether these constructions can be linked in a constructional network, with macro-, meso- and micro-level schemas generalizing over subsets of binominal syntagms.
In addition to the attested synchronic variation, this workshop also wants to address the claim that binominals are a locus of (ongoing) grammaticalization, subjectification and decategorialization processes. In some (types) of binominals, the nominal elements seem to have lost or are losing typically nominal features such as the potential for pre- and postmodification, pluralization, etc. (e.g. *a nice wonder of a city, *bunches of idiots, etc.) and may be shifting to the categories of quantifier, intensifier, hedger, etc. Such issues also touch on interesting concepts such as 'categorial gradience', i.e. fuzzy boundaries between two or more categories (Denison 2006, Aarts, Denison, Keizer & Popova 2004). The current variation in binominal constructions could then be seen as a case of synchronic layering (Hopper & Traugott 2003).
This workshop aims to arrive at a better understanding of the organization and development of (different types of) binominal constructions in order to account for the rich synchronic and diachronic semantico-syntactic variety they harbour. We particularly welcome empirically based talks that contribute to the aforementioned theoretical issues. We welcome papers on English as well as on other languages and contributions may be language-internal or comparative in nature. The following list sums up possible avenues of thinking that may be addressed in the talks:

·         How can the synchronic variation in binominal syntagms be analyzed syntactically, semantically, collocationally, etc. in a unified way?

·         Are there (partial) syntactic and/or semantic tests to determine headedness and categorial noun status of the nominal elements in a binominal syntagm and what is their validity?

·         What are possible typologies of binominal syntagms?

·         Which kinds of tests can be used to distinguish between types of uses, and what is their validity (e.g. Rijkhoff 2009)

·         Binominal syntagms as a locus of grammaticalization, e.g. in which paths of change do binominals engage crosslinguistically?

·         Which properties in the binominal as a source construction explain the wide variety of synchronic variation and potential for diachronic change it displays?

·         What can specific theoretical frameworks contribute to the analysis of binominal syntagms, e.g. cognitive grammar, construction grammar, functional grammar, usage-based approaches?

Aarts, Bas. 1998. "Binominal Noun Phrases in English". Transactions of the Philological Society 96: 117-158.

Aarts, Bas, David Denison, Eveline Keizer & Gergana Popova. 2004. Fuzzy Grammar: a reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Akmajian, Adrian and Adrienne Lehrer. 1976. "NP-like quantifiers and the problem of determining the head of an NP". Linguistic Analysis 2: 395-413.

Brems, Lieselotte. 2003. "Measure Noun constructions: an instance of semantically-driven grammaticalization". International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 8 (2): 283-312.

De Clerck, Bernard & Timothy Colleman. 2009. "Het was massa's lekker! From noun to intensifier: massa's in (Flemish) varieties of Dutch". Presentation at Current Trends in Grammaticalization Research, Groningen, 7-9 October 2009.

Denison, David. 2002. "History of the sort of construction family". Paper presented at the Second International Conference on Construction Grammar, University of Helsinki, 7 September 2002. [Online draft version available at,100126,en.pdf]

Denison, D. 2006. "Category change and gradience in the determiner system." In Ans Van Kemenade & Bettelou Los, eds. The Handbook of the History of English. 279-304
Everaert, Martin. 1992. "Nogmaals: Een schat van een kind". In Hans Bennis & Jan W. de Vries, eds. De binnenbouw van het      Nederlands: een bundel artikelen voor Piet Paardekooper. Dordrecht: Foris. 45-54.
Foolen, Ad. 2004. "Expressive binominal NPs in Germanic and Romance languages". In Günter Radden & Klaus-Uwe Panther, eds. 75-100. Studies in Linguistics Motivation. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Halliday, Michael A.K. 1994. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. 2nd edition. London: Arnold.

Hopper, Paul J. and Elizabeth Closs Traugott. 2003 [1993]. Grammaticalization. Second Edition. [First Edition]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hudson, Richard A. 1987. "Zwicky on heads". Journal of Linguistics 23: 109-132.

Joosten, Frank. 2003. Collectiva en Aggregaatsnamen in het Nederlands: Begripsbepaling en Typologie. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of Leuven.

Keizer, Evelien. 2001. "A classification of sort/kind/type-constructions". Ms. University College London.
Keizer, M.E. (2007). The English Noun Phrase: the Nature of Linguistic Categorization. Cambridge: CUP.

Langacker, Ronald W. forthcoming a. "A lot of quantifiers". In Sally Rice and John Newman, eds. Experimental and Empirical Methods (provisional title). Proceedings from CSDL 2004.

Quirk, Randolph, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik. 1985. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London/ New York: Longman.

Rijkhoff, J. 2009, 'On the co-variation between form and function of adnominal possessive modifiers in Dutch and English', in McGregor, W.B. (ed.), The Expression of Possession (The Expression of Cognitive Categories [ECC] - Volume 2), Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin/New York, pp. 51-106.
Traugott, Elizabeth Closs. 2008. "The grammaticalization of NP of NP patterns". In Alex Bergs & Gabriele Diewald, eds. Constructions and Language Change. Berlin: Mouton. 23-45.

Verveckken, K. 2007. Grammaticization of Spanish Size Noun-Constructions. A cognitive perspective. Unpublished Masterpaper. University of Leuven

Willemse, Peter. 2005. Nominal reference point constructions: possessive and esphoric NPs in English. Unpublished PhD Thesis. University of Leuven.

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