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On the life and death of a collocation: A corpus-based diachronic study of dar miedo/hacer miedo-type structures in Spanish

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This paper seeks to shed light on the diachronic evolution of collocations by examining structures formed in Modern Spanish with dar “give” plus state nouns (e.g. dar miedo “frighten”, literally, “give fear”). Using the Corpus del español, I offer a quantitative and qualitative analysis of eighteen representative dar miedo-type collocations from the 1200s to the 1900s. The results show that although the basic properties of dar miedo-type structures have remained remarkably stable over the centuries, during the Middle Ages the verb hacer “make” was used here almost as often as dar — a competition apparently inherited from Latin. While different nouns show different patterns of loss of hacer, echoing the lexical diffusion of certain grammatical changes, the 1500s saw a very sharp decline in “make” cases across the board, leading to its complete disappearance from this context by the 1800s. The loss of hacer led to a radical simplification of the collocational properties of state nouns in Spanish vis-à-vis Latin and other Modern Romance varieties. This process resulted both from language-internal factors mostly related to the lexical semantics of dar and hacer and from three key sociolinguistic processes in 16th-century Spanish: koineization, change of norm and increased standardization.
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Keywords: Spanish; causative; collocations; give; koine; make; multi-word units; noun predicate

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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