Constructionalization at Work: The Emergence of the Latin Progressive Present Participle / Gerund Construction

In Latin, the present participle and the gerund frequently function as the predicate of an adjunct clause. Such clauses are syntactically dependent on a main clause, with which they form a bi-clausal construction. Under specific semantic and pragmatic circumstances, some of these constructions are interpreted based on a pragmatic inference: the main verb, which corresponds to a verb of existence, position, or movement, is deprived of its lexical meaning and acquires a grammatical function, viz. that of presenting the non-finite state of affairs as being in the middle of its realization. The repeated use and propagation of thusly interpreted constructions gave rise to a new construction, the progressive construction. I argue that the emergence of this construction corresponds to a constructionalization process, and that although this process has not been completed within Latin, many instances of the pattern [verb of existence/position/movement + present participle/gerund] instantiate a construction in its own right, viz. different from the bi-clausal construction that gave rise to it.