I examine the evolution of constructions involved in the emergence of be about to, used to indicate an immediate future event. Using three corpora from different time periods going as far back as the Old English period, I take synchronic snapshots of the gradual change in constructions leading up to the present day usage of be about to. The selected corpora parallel Disney's (2009) account of the grammaticalization of be going to for the purpose of comparison. It is found that the emergence of be about to is a complex story involving the development of multiple constructions through time. These findings demonstrate the value of examining language change in a construction grammar framework. While it is helpful to understand that constructions, not just words, undergo grammaticalization, one should also recognize that the emergence of a new construction always involves an interaction between several different constructions. Consequently, determining where the grammaticalization process begins is a complicated endeavor that requires thorough examination the complexities of the older constructions from which a new construction emerges.
Construction grammar, Grammaticalization, Idiomatization, Schematization
Level of Degree
Department of Linguistics
First Committee Member (Chair)
Second Committee Member
Mee, Joshua. "The evolution of constructions: The case of be about to." (2013). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/ling_etds/25