Udo Rohe

The progressive in present-day spoken English - A case of constructional change?

ErstbetreuerProf. Dr. Dr. h. c. Christian Mair
ZweitbetreuerProf. Dr. Dr. h.c. Bernd Kortmann

My study seeks to address the following aspects regarding the use and recent development of the progressive construction in spoken British English:

First, is the progressive's frequency increase still under way, or has it finally reached a saturation point? It is hypothesized that a saturation point has indeed been reached in informal Face-to-face Conversation, while other - more formal - spoken genres are expected to exhibit an ongoing frequency increase.

Second, which uses can be identified as the drivers behind the increase? I expect both prototypical uses (most importantly the present progressive active) and less typical uses (e.g. modal progressives or progressives co-occurring with cognition verbs) to contribute to the construction's increasing use. However, it is assumed that the contribution of the prototypical realisations will have a stronger statistical impact than the one of the less typical, supposedly innovative uses.

Third, as Römer (2005) has shown, many aspects of progressive use should not be regarded as purely grammatical but rather as lexical-grammatical phenomena. This is why the second part of my project explicitly focuses on lexically specific patterns of progressive use that keep reoccurring in the corpus data. I assume that - as a result of their comparatively high frequency in specific contexts - many of these patterns will have acquired distinct discourse-pragmatic functions and will have reached a high degree of routinisation.

My project is situated in a usage-based, constructionist framework, approaching the progressive's recent developments from the perspective of Hilpert's (2013) concept of constructional change.


Hilpert, Martin (2013). Constructional change in English: developments in allomorphy, word formation, and syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Römer, Ute (2005). Progressives, Patterns. Pedagogy: A Corpus-Driven Approach to English Progressive Forms, Functions, Contexts, and Didactics. Vol. 18. Studies in Corpus Linguistics. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

DisziplinEnglish Studies
Forschungsrichtunglanguage variation and change, corpus linguistics, construction grammar
Schlüsselbegriffeprogressive construction, usage-based, frequency effects