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The rise of complex verb constructions in Germanic

Sponsored by the Swedish Research Council (2018-2021)

Project members:

  • Evie Coussé (Department of languages and literatures, Gothenburg), principal investigator
  • Gerlof Bouma (Språkbanken, Gothenburg)
  • Nicoline van der Sijs (Dutch Language Institute, Leiden)
  • Dirk-Jan de Kooter (Meertens Institute, Amsterdam)
  • Trude Dijkstra (Meertens Institute, Amsterdam)

Project description

The project is situated in the field of historical linguistics. It 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. The project investigates both language internal and external motivations and mechanisms of complexification combining the frameworks of diachronic construction grammarand comparative linguists. Methodologically, it introduces the use of parallel corpora in historical linguistics, compiling a multilingual parallel corpus of historical Bible translations, which will be made available for other diachronic research after the completion of the project.


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 EDGeS 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.

You can read more about this corpus in our LREC paper:

  • Bouma, Coussé, Dijkstra & Van der Sijs, 2020, The EDGeS Diachronic Bible Corpus, Proceedings 12th Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2020), 5232–5239.

The EDGeS corpus is available in two ways:

  1. A subset of thirty Bible translations, called OpenEDGeS, has been made available for download under a public license (CC BY-NC-SA). OpenEDGeS is available through Språkbankens resource infrastructure.
  2. The complete collection of thirty-six Bible translations is available for searching through OPUS (links to main page, not to the EDGeS corpus). Because this contains material under copyright, access to the corpus search facilities is password protected. Please contact for login details and further instructions.


Evie Coussé & Gerlof Bouma (accepted) Semantic scope restrictions in complex verb constructions in Dutch. Linguistics 58. [draft]

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

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


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. Gothenburg (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.

Project duration

Project members

  • Evie Coussé (Principal investigator)
    Inst för Språk och litteraturer, University of Gothenburg
  • Gerlof Bouma
  • Nicoline van der Sijs
    Radboud universiteit & Instituut voor de Nederlandse Taal, Leiden
  • Dirk-Jan de Kooter
    Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam
  • Trude Dijkstra
    Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam


  • Vetenskapsrådet (2017-01848)

Project type

  • Research project
  • Externally funded

Umbrella project