International Journal of Corpus Linguistics vol:17 issue:2 pages:229-258
This article presents a case study of a set of constructions containing the related way-nouns way, road, track and route, exemplified by (i) the farm road to the house, (ii) A senior Soviet official is on his way to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, (iii) In 1951, spies Burgess and Maclean escaped from Britain en route to Moscow. (iv) Maresa (...) may be on her way to getting her man at last. These distinct constructions are the synchronically co-existing layers resulting from processes of lexicalization and grammaticalization. In the source construction illustrated in (i) the way-noun is a fully lexical noun. In the reanalysed constructions, the way-noun is incorporated into respectively a composite predicate (ii), a complex preposition (iii) and an aspectual marker (iv). We will argue that these three constructions challenge the view of decategorialization as mere loss of nominal features such as determiners, as the way-noun is preceded by a determiner in the majority of cases. Composite predicate and aspectual marker often even have a possessive determiner referring to their subject. We argue that the emergent layer of aspectual markers adds complex and fine-grained meanings to the paradigm of English aspectual markers, thus considerably enriching it. Finally, we show on the basis of qualitative and quantitative corpus analysis that the structural variants display an interesting case of specialization in relation to the four way-nouns under consideration.