The rise of complex verb constructions in Germanic

Research project
Active research
Project size
6 000 000
Project period
2018 - 2021
Project owner
Department of Languages and Literatures

Short description

The project addresses an understudied case of language change: the rise of complex verb constructions in Germanic. This development is present in all Germanic languages, yet the exact outcome of the change is different for each individual language, leading to cross-linguistic variation. The project aims to increase our factual knowledge of the rise of complex verb constructions in Germanic, with an empirical focus on English, Dutch, German and Swedish. It also aims to enhance our understanding of the process of ‘constructional complexification’ which is hypothesized to lie behind the rise of complex verb constructions. Methodologically, it introduces the use of parallel corpora in historical linguistics, compiling a multilingual parallel corpus of historical Bible translations.


The project includes international collaboration with professor Nicoline van der Sijs, initially at the Meertens Institute in Amsterdam (2018-2019) and later at the Dutch Language Institute in Leiden (2020-2021). Two post-doctoral researchers, Dirk-Jan de Kooter and Trude Dijkstra, have been working on the project, both at the Meertens Institute.

EDGeS Diachronic Bible Corpus

The project has compiled the EDGeS Diachronic Bible Corpus. The corpus consists of thirty-six historical Bible translations in English, Dutch, German and Swedish from the fourteenth century until the present day. The translations are converted into one searchable format and connected with each other on the verse level. This makes the EDGeS Corpus a so-called parallel corpus in both the synchronic and diachronic dimensions. It is available via Språkbanken Text.


Evie Coussé & Gerlof Bouma (2022) Semantic scope restrictions in complex verb constructions in DutchLinguistics 60, 123-176.

Gerlof Bouma, Evie Coussé, Trude Dijkstra & Nicoline van der Sijs (2020). The EDGeS Diachronic Bible CorpusProceedings of the 12th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation, 5232-5239.

Evie Coussé (2020) Complex verb constructions in Old Dutch. Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 80, 286-302.


Evie Coussé (2022) Auxiliary combinations in early Germanic. Talk at Linguistic and philological perspectives on Old Germanic II. Zürich (Switzerland), online, 2 December 2022.

Evie Coussé (2022) Complex verb constructions in early Germanic. The role of the wider constructional network. Talk at the lecture series on Language & Cognition: Focus on Construction Grammar. Zürich (Switzerland), online, 21 November 2022.

Evie Coussé (2022) Using translated texts in historical linguistics. Turning challenges into opportunities. Talk at the 25th International Conference on Historical Linguistics. Oxford (UK), 1-5 August 2022.

Evie Coussé (2021). Searching for complex verb constructions in Old Dutch. A corpus linguistic approach. Presentation at Linguistic and philological perspectives on Old Germanic Workshop. Göteborg (Sweden), online, 3 December 2021.

Evie Coussé (2021) Towards a diachronic turn in corpus-based contrastive linguistics. How can historical linguistics contribute? Talk at 6th Using Corpora in Contrastive and Translation Studies. Bertinoro (Italy), online, 9-11 September 2021.

Evie Coussé (2021) Translating constructions across time. Visualizing changing constructional networks with diachronic construction maps. Talk at EUROPHRAS 2021. Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium), online, 6-9 September 2021.

Evie Coussé (2021) Constructional complexification. Descriptive potential and explanatory value. Talk at 11th International Conference on Construction Grammar. Antwerpen (Belgium), 18-20 August 2021.

Evie Coussé (2021) Stacking auxiliaries in Germanic. Teasing apart semantic and structural restrictions. Talk at 12th International Conference of Nordic and General Linguistics. Oslo (Norway), online, 14-18 June 2021.

Evie Coussé (2021) A corpus linguistic approach to comparing historical Bible translations. Talk at The Bible in Literature, Art and Languages Conference. Lublin (Poland), online, 24 June 2021.

Evie Coussé (2021) The EDGeS Diachronic Bible Corpus. A new parallel corpus for the historical study of Germanic. Talk at 27th Germanic Linguistics Annual Conference. Madison (USA), online, 12-14 May 2021.

Evie Coussé (2020) Parallel corpora for historical linguistics. Building a corpus of historical Bible translations in English, Dutch, German and Swedish. Talk at Workshop on Historical Sociolinguistics. Göteborg (Sweden), online, 13 November 2020.

Gerlof Bouma, Evie Coussé, Dirk-Jan de Kooter & Nicoline van der Sijs (2019) Building a Diachronic and Contrastive Parallel Corpus. Poster at Digital Humanities Conference 2019. Utrecht (The Netherlands), 9-12 July 2019.

Evie Coussé (2019) Complex perfects in Germanic. Talk at the Germanic Sandwich 2019. Amsterdam (The Netherlands), 23-24 May 2019.

Evie Coussé (2019) Swedish funding for Dutch historical linguistics. Talk at the Gent-Lancaster Grammar Workshop. Gent (Belgium), 10 May 2019.

Project presentations

The project was presented at research seminars in Sweden, The Netherlands and Belgium:

  • Leiden Utrecht Semantics Happenings, Utrecht, online, 4 May 2020.
  • Linguistic Structures Research Area, Göteborg, 28 November 2019.
  • Ghent University Research Group on Linguistic Meaning & Structure (GLIMS) & Diachronic and Diatopic Linguistics Research Group (DiaLing), Gent, 26 April 2019.
  • Taalcontact Research Meeting at Meertens Institute, Amsterdam, 8 April 2019.
  • Quantitative Lexicology and Variational Linguistics (QLVL) Research Group, Leuven, 3 April 2019.