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The grammaticalization of adjectives of identity and difference in English and Dutch

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This article deals with adjectives of general comparison in English and Dutch, more particularly, with the core adjectives expressing identity and difference in both languages. These are, for identity, English same and identical and Dutch zelfde and identiek, and, for difference, English other and different and their Dutch counterparts ander, verschillend and verscheiden. Throughout, the contrastive description offered will be based on the analysis of corpus examples of these nine adjectives and on the quantification of their distinct uses. In the first place, I will investigate whether the grammaticalization claim made about English adjectives of comparison in Breban (2002) and Breban and Davidse (forthcoming) also applies to Dutch adjectives of comparison. According to this claim, the English adjectives of identity and difference have two distinct types of uses, fully lexical uses and textual — referential and cohesive — uses which are connected as points of departure and result of a process of grammaticalization. I will show that the same grammaticalization process characterizes the semantics of Dutch adjectives of identity and difference, which hence provides an additional, comparative, argument in support of the grammaticalization hypothesis. Secondly, I will, by elaborating the grammaticalization interpretation descriptively, propose a systematic overview of similarities and differences in the semantics of the English and Dutch adjectives of identity and difference. I will focus first on the different degrees of grammaticalization manifested by the English and Dutch adjectives. I will then investigate in what way the various meaning distinctions resulting from the grammaticalization process are distributed over the adjectives in both languages. This will give us some insight into the overall way in which the core adjectives of identity and difference are organized semantically in English and Dutch.

Keywords: Dutch/English; adjectives of comparison; grammaticalization

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Leuven

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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