Debonding and Clipping of Prefixoids in Germanic: Constructionalization or Constructional Change?

  • Muriel Norde
  • Kristel Van Goethem
Part of the Studies in Morphology book series (SUMO, volume 4)


This paper is concerned with the debonding of three Germanic prefixoids: Dutch kei ‘boulder’, German Hammer ‘hammer’, and Swedish kanon ‘cannon’. Drawing on an extensive corpus-based and statistical analysis, we compare the formal properties (construction types), semantics (degree of bleaching), collocational properties and productivity of bound and free uses of each prefixoid. We show that debonding of prefixoids is a productive process of lexical innovation in Germanic languages, which may lead to the creation of new intensifying adverbs or evaluative adjectives. In addition, we explore whether debonding of prefixoids can be fruitfully analysed from a constructional perspective. More in particular, we address the question of whether the observed changes accompanying debonding are best accounted for by Traugott and Trousdale’s concept of ‘constructionalization’, or by Hilpert’s concept of ‘constructional change’. To this end, we explore a variety of quantitative methods, including productivity measures and distinctive collexeme analysis. We conclude that the quantitative differences between the bound and the free forms of the three prefixoids studied in this paper allow us to consider them as two separate constructions, but that the distinction is a gradient one.


Debonding Clipping Prefixoids Intensification Constructionalization Constructional change Germanic languages (Dutch, German, Swedish) 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nordeuropa-InstitutHumboldt UniversitätBerlinGermany
  2. 2.F.R.S.-FNRS & Université catholique de LouvainUniversité catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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