10th Bridging the Unbridgeable Lunch Lecture

We are pleased to announce our 10th Bridging the Unbridgeable Lunch Lecture which will take place on 15 April 2015, from 12 to 1 pm at Lipsius, room 227. Our guest speaker, David Lorenz from the University of Freiburg will be giving a talk entitled “to-contraction in American English: The career(s) of a non-standard feature”.

You can find David’s abstract below, and if you decide to attend the event, do not forget to bring your own lunch!

 to-contraction in American English: The career(s) of a non-standard feature

(David Lorenz, University of Freiburg)

 – Abstract –

The pattern of to-contraction has often been noted as a feature of informal, spoken language, producing forms such as wanna, gonna, but also, for example, needa, oughta (cf. Bolinger 1981, Pullum 1997). This study offers a diachronic description of to-contraction from a Construction Grammar perspective, using data from the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA, Davies 2010).

While non-standard written representations of to-contraction occur since the 19th century, three specific forms – gonna, wanna and gotta – take a separate development and become increasingly conventional. In this process, their factors of use also change, showing the establishment of a connection across these items that fits the description of a ‘meta-construction’ (Leino & Östman 2005). Thus, the study shows how schematicity emerges in language from what started out as idiosyncratic cases of phonological reduction.


Bolinger, Dwight. 1981. “Consonance, dissonance and grammaticality: The case of wanna”. Language and Communication 1. 189-206.

Davies, Mark. 2010-. The Corpus of Historical American English: 400 million words, 1810-2009. http://corpus.byu.edu/coha/

Leino, Jaakko & Jan-Ola Östman. 2005. “Constructions and variability”. Grammatical Constructions: Back to the Roots, ed. by M. Fried & H. Boas. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.191-213.

Pullum, Geoffrey K. 1997. “The morpholexical nature of English to-contraction”. Language 73.   79-102.

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