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The early semantics of the neologism BREXIT: a lexicogrammatical approach

Fontaine, Lise 2017. The early semantics of the neologism BREXIT: a lexicogrammatical approach. Functional Linguistics 4 , 6. 10.1186/s40554-017-0040-x

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The aim of this paper is to examine the nominality of the neologism BREXT using a corpus-informed lexicogrammatical approach. The term BREXIT, coined in 2012, used initially in print and social media in the UK is now internationally wide-spread. BREXIT is a blend of British + exit, which expresses the meaning of’Britain exiting from the EU’. Although ‘Brexit’ clearly expresses an event (motion) meaning, as a nominalization, it also expresses nominal meaning. In systemic functional linguistics (SFL), nominalization is much broader than lexical derivation and is treated as a means of conceptualising and encoding experience. In this paper the development of BREXIT is explored using a corpus of 1,641,903 words including 2,435 instances of BREXIT from its first use in May 2012 to the UK general election in 2015. Capturing the development of this term from its initial use allows some insight into the intended meanings of the speaker due to the glosses provided. These appositional expressions are combined with the collocations found in the corpus. The results show that while the meanings identifiable in the corpus are entirely nominal in use, the term encodes complex meanings of event-oriented meanings and of hypotheticality. In examining the nominal status of BREXIT, I show that not all nominalizations are instances of grammatical metaphor.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
P Language and Literature > PE English
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nominalization, Word formation, Lexical semantics, Lexicogrammar, SFL, Grammatical metaphor
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Publisher: SpringerOpen
ISSN: 2196-419X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 7 March 2017
Date of Acceptance: 6 February 2017
Last Modified: 06 May 2020 09:30

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