The functions of get in corpora of spontaneous and written-to-be-spoken language: from syntactic versatility to semantic similarity

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Several interesting observations have been made about the multiple facets of get. Interest has however mainly been focused on the degree of difference between structures such as get passive and be passive (cf. Hatcher, 1949; Gee, 1974; Haegeman, 1985; Collins, 1996, inter alia). Less frequently, contrastive studies between get and other verbs like have (cf. Kimball, 1973; Johansson and Oksefjell, 1996; Gilquin, 2003), give (cf. Cattel, 1984), become (cf. Quirk et al. 1991), be and keep (cf. Johansson and Oksefjell, 1996) have been put forward in order to investigate some specific features of get. Little attention seems to have focused on what this study calls the get-unit, namely, the framework determined by get and the environment in which it occurs. The aim of the present paper is to explore the syntax and semantics of the get-unit with particular regard to the functions it displays in spoken language (both spontaneous and written-to-be-spoken – cf. Gregory 1967, Nencioni 1976, Rossi 2002, Pavesi 2005). The primary aim is to demonstrate that, despite its syntactic versatility (cf. also Quirk et al. 1991 and Biber et al. 1999), get can be depicted semantically as a general result marker, on the basis of the resultative quality of the sentences in which it locates. Secondly, the paper aims at providing an explanation for these semantic similarities. Hence I suggest two interrelating and complementary meanings on which the semantics of the get-sentence may exclusively depend: the core and the peripheral meaning of the get-unit. The underlying theory is based on Lindstromberg (1991) and Johansson and Oksefjell (1996). Lindstromberg (1991:285) suggests that get should not be seen as a polysemic verb in the common sense of the term, but as a verb which displays different shades of meaning which stand in a non-complex, semantically motivated relation to each other. Johansson and Oksefjell (1996:73) maintain that despite the variety in syntax and semantic content, there appears to be a prototype to which all get constructions conform more or less closely. Thirdly, the paper investigates whether the features and functions which the get-unit displays in spontaneous spoken language are reflected in written-to-be-spoken conversations. Particular attention is focused on the language of movies. The analyses, which are based on authentic data retrieved from the US spoken subcorpus of the Bank of English (i.e. about 30 million words) and on transcripts of dialogues from American movies produced from 2000 on, are conducted according to both corpus-based and corpus-driven methodologies (cf. Tognini-Bonelli 2001): first, the uses of get described in various reference grammars (cf. Quirk et al. 1991 and Biber et al. 1999) are verified and illustrated by data from the Bank of English US spoken subcorpus; secondly, movie transcripts are used as a database from which occurrences of get are retrieved, and the syntax, semantics and pragmatics of the get-unit are explored.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteECOLINGUA: The role of e-Corpora in Translation, Language Learning and Testing
Numero di pagine25
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2008


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