Casi palmo de la risa. A corpus-based study of a Spanish constructional idiom with the causal preposition de

  • Pedro Ivorra Ordines Katolische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
  • Carmen Mellado Blanco University of Santiago de Compostela


This study deals with the analysis of the mesoconstruction [V{bodily_reaction} de DET N{emotion/somatic_reaction_physiological_need}], whose constructional meaning can be paraphrased as ‘experience N{emotion/somatic_reaction_physiological_need} in its highest degree’. This intensifying semi-schematic construction conforms a continuum with the [V de NG] causative construction, with which it is related through a vertical relation of metaphorical extension (Goldberg 1995). To carry out this corpus-based study (esTenTen18, Sketch Engine) the slots fillers emoción ‘emotion’, risa ‘laugh’ and susto ‘scare’ where chosen, which correspond to N{emotion/somatic_reaction_physiological_need}. With this study, a twofold goal is pursued. First, to demonstrate that each of the three constructional idioms licensed by the [V{bodily_reaction} de DET N{emotion/somatic_reaction_physiological_need}] meso-construction tends to license very few types with high token frequency and a high degree of idiomaticity. The rest of the types, however, with lower token frequency, are intrinsically related to the meaning of the prototypical meaning, forming a “cognitive core”, which is revealed as specific to each bodily sensation/reaction analyzed (emoción, risa, susto). Second, to show that in the continuum between the causative construction and the intensifying construction, the instances licensed by the latter tend to exhibit both projectors and triggers of the intensifying meaning. These are contextual elements that can be found in the most immediate syntagmatic profile of the construction and its pragmatic function is in harmony with the intensifying meaning of the instances in which these appear. In addition to these formal elements, there are also logic-semantic traits that point to the intensifying meaning. In this way, those verbal slot fillers alluding to very unlikely or impossible human actions or reactions, such as se despezona de la risa ‘break off with laughter’, are clear indicators of a non-literal (causative) meaning but intensifying. Second,