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Wed Nov 04 2009
Calls: Historical Ling/Lithuania
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Multiple Source Constructions in Language Change
Message 1: Multiple Source Constructions in Language Change
From: Lobke Ghesquière <Lobke.Ghesquierearts.kuleuven.be>
Subject: Multiple Source Constructions in Language Change
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Full Title: Multiple Source Constructions in Language Change
Date: 02-Sep-2010 - 05-Sep-2010
Location: Vilnius, Lithuania
Contact Person: Lobke Ghesquière
Meeting Email: Lobke.Ghesquierearts.kuleuven.be
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Call Deadline: 10-Nov-2009
Workshop 'Multiple Source Constructions in Language Change'
The 43rd annual Meeting of Societas Linguistica Europaea
Vilnius University, Lithuania, 2-5 September 2010
Freek Van de Velde, Lobke Ghesquière, Hendrik De Smet
University of Leuven
Call for Papers
In recent work on grammaticalization and language change in general, it has
often been stressed that change does not affect individual lexemes, but entire
constructions (see Bybee et al. 1994: 11; Croft 2000:62, 156, 163; Heine 2003:
575; Bybee 2003: 602-3, 2007; Traugott 2007). However, although most case
studies on diachronic language change now recognize the importance of the source
construction as a whole, they generally focus on just one such construction,
drawing gradual, yet straight lines from one particular source construction to
one specific syntagm. Using the metaphor proposed in Croft (2000: 32-37),
constructions form diachronic lineages as they are replicated in usage, and
change is typically conceived of as occurring within a lineage through altered
replication. Recent studies, however, demonstrate that innovations in language
change may derive not just from one, but from different sources at once. That
is, change often seems to involve some interaction between lineages or between
the branches of a lineage.
Multiplicity of source constructions can be witnessed on two levels. On the
macro-level, the involvement of multiple source constructions entails a merger
of clearly distinct lineages. One linguistic item or construction can then be
traced back to two independent items or constructions, each with its own prior
history. Several types of merger can be discerned, which are however not
- Syntactic blends ('intraference' in Croft 2000): the formal and functional
features of different lineages are recombined into a new construction. For
example, the Lunda passive has been argued to combine two source constructions,
a left-dislocated object construction and an impersonal construction (Givón &
Kawasha 2006). The history of English gerunds and present participles seems to
be a protracted series of mergers, with exchange of formal, semantic and
distributional features (Fanego 1998; Miller 2000), to the point that the two
clause types are now believed to have merged completely (Huddleston & Pullum 2002).
- Contact-induced change ('interference' in Croft 2000): the function of a
foreign construction is merged with a 'home-bred' form. Examples are the use of
the locative preposition 'bei' instead of 'von' to mark the agent of passives in
Pennsylvania Dutch under the influence of English (Heine & Kuteva 2003: 538), or
the emergence of a periphrastic perfect in Silesian Polish, calqued on the
German perfect (Croft 2000: 146).
- Two lineages produce paradigmatic alternates in a single construction. Here
lineages merge on a functional level, but their different forms are retained and
integrated in a new paradigm. The clearest case is morphological suppletion, as
in English 'go/went' or Classical Greek 'trekh-/dram-' 'run'. However, the
phenomenon also occurs in syntax, as illustrated by the alternation of Dutch
'hebben/zijn' or German 'haben/sein' as perfect auxiliaries. As is well known,
the choice for one auxiliary or the other depends on the semantics of the verb:
transitives and unergatives take 'hebben/haben'; unaccusatives take 'zijn/sein'.
Though currently functioning as alternates within a single grammatical category,
the 'hebben/haben'-perfect and the 'zijn/sein'-perfect can be traced back to
different source constructions (Van der Wal 1992:152-153).
- A constructional slot attracts new items: it has been proposed that when
functional domains recruit new items through grammaticalization, this may in
part be due to analogical attraction by a more abstract syntactic construction
(Fischer 2007). This seems particularly plausible when, in the extreme case, an
abstract slot recruits productively from a single source domain. For instance,
the English evidential 'be-Ved-to-V'-construction has become productive for
verbs of perception, communication and cognition (Noël 2001). But the issue is
more complicated when items from different source domains are involved.
Prepositions, for instance, may be derived from very different sources yet
converge on a single new category, as illustrated by German 'statt' and 'wegen',
deriving from nominal constructions, as opposed to 'während', deriving from a
participle (Kluge 2002).
On the micro-level, innovation can take place within what is historically a
single lineage, but under the influence of different uses of the same item.
- In lexical semantics, Geeraerts (1997) proposes that two senses of a
polysemous lexical item may conspire to produce a third.
- The same seems to happen in grammar. New uses of a grammatical or
grammaticalizing item may be triggered by pragmatic implicatures arising
(seemingly?) independently in a number of its collocations. For example, the
aspectual meanings of the English phrasal verb particle 'out' arose in several
specific collocations at once (De Smet forthc.). The development of the
emphasizing meaning of 'particular' was influenced by two other sense strains of
the adjective - a descriptive and a determining one - each associated with its
own specific collocational set. (Ghesquière 2009).
- The most dramatic cases are certain examples of degrammaticalization. For
example, Fischer (2000) has argued that, long after it had been reanalysed as an
infinitive marker, English 'to' has developed back in the direction of the
The recurrent involvement of multiple source constructions in language change
raises a number of questions, from methodological/descriptive to theoretical:
1. How do we prove that different source constructions have a genuine impact?
Clearly, mere resemblance of constructions does not necessarily imply that they
actually interact as sources of an innovation.
2. How should we typologize the various changes involving multiple source
constructions? For a start, involvement of multiple sources may be more likely
in some domains of grammar than others (semantics, morphology, syntax) and is
certainly more conspicuous in some cases than in others (macro-level vs.
micro-level). It is not entirely clear, then, whether in all cases we are
dealing with a similar phenomenon, triggered by fundamentally similar mechanisms.
3. How common is the involvement of multiple source constructions in language
change? It is possible that the involvement of multiple source constructions is
a significant catalyst for change, which could even imply that 'uncontaminated'
lineage-internal changes form the exception. Alternatively, the involvement of
multiple sources could be merely apparent or accidental and have no great impact
4. How can developments involving multiple source constructions be modelled in a
theory of grammar and language change? Especially if change canonically involves
multiple sources, this has implications for how constructions are represented in
speakers' minds and how language change takes place (Joseph 1992). Proper
theoretical modelling of different changes is also necessary to determine to
what extent multiplicity of source constructions in change is a homogeneous
We invite papers that address one or more of the above questions, to be
presented in a one-day workshop, bringing together scholars interested in
language change, from the domains of grammar, grammaticalization, morphology and
typology. Particularly welcome are papers that are based on corpus and/or
historical data and that aim to contribute to existing theorizing.
Confirmed Keynote Speaker:
The workshop is to be held at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Societas
Linguistica Europeae in Vilnius, September 2-5 (http://www.flf.vu.lt/sle2010/).
We ask potential participants to send us their provisional titles and short
descriptions no later than November 12, so as to allow us to submit a workshop
programme, including a preliminary list of participants and a short description
of their topics, to the SLE Scientific Committee. Contributors will be notified
if the workshop is accepted by December 15. Abstracts should then be submitted
electronically via the SLE website by January 1.
Freek Van de Velde, Lobke Ghesquière, Hendrik De Smet
- Bybee, J., R. Perkins & W. Pagliuca (1994). The evolution of grammar. Tense,
aspect, and modality in the languages of the world. Chicago: University of
- Bybee, J. (2003). Mechanisms of change in grammaticalization. The role of
frequency. In: Joseph, B.D. & R.D. Janda (eds.). The Handbook of Historical
Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. 602-623.
- Bybee, J. (2007). Historical Linguistics. In: Geeraerts, D. & H. Cuyckens
(eds.) The handbook of cognitive linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Croft, W. (2000). Explaining language change. An evolutionary approach.
- De Smet, H. (forthc.). Grammatical interference. Subject marker for and
phrasal verb particle out. In: Traugott, E. & G. Trousdale (eds). Gradualness,
gradience and grammaticalization. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
- Fanego, T. (1998). Developments in argument linking in early Modern English
gerund phrases. English Language and Linguistics 2: 87-119.
- Fischer, O. (2000). Grammaticalisation: unidirectional, non-reversible? The
case of to before the infinitive in English. In: Fischer, O., A. Rosenbach & D.
Stein (eds.). Pathways of change. Grammaticalization in English. Amsterdam: John
- Fischer, O. (2007). Approaches to morphosyntactic change from a functional and
formal perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Geeraerts, D. (1997). Diachronic prototype semantics. A contribution to
historical lexicology. Oxford: Clarendon Press
- Ghesquière, L. (2009). (Inter)subjectification and structural movement in the
English NP. The adjectives of specificity. Folia Linguistica 43 (2): 311-343.
- Givón, T. & B. Kawasha. (2006). Indiscrete grammatical relations. The Lunda
passive. In: Tsunoda, T. & T. Kageyama (eds.). Voice and Grammatical Relations.
In Honor of Masayoshi Shibatani (Typology Studies in Language 65). Amsterdam:
John Benjamins. 15-41.
- Heine, B. (2003). Grammaticalization. In: Joseph, B.D. & R.D. Janda (eds.).
The Handbook of Historical Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell. 575-601.
- Heine, B. & T. Kuteva (2003). "On contact-induced grammaticalization". Studies
in Language 27:529-572.
- Huddleston, R. & Pullum, G. (2002). The Cambridge grammar of the English
language. Cambrige: Cambridge University Press.
- Joseph, B.D. (1992). Diachronic explanation. Putting the speaker back into the
picture. In: Davis, G.W. & G.K. Iverson (eds.). Explanations in historical
linguistics. John Benjamins. 123-144.
- Kluge, F. (2002). Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache. Berlin: De
- Miller, G.D. (2002). Nonfinite structures in theory and change. Oxford: Oxford
- Noël, D. (2001). The passive matrices of English infinitival complement
clauses. Evidentials on the road to auxiliarihood? Studies in Language 25: 255-296.
- Traugott, E. (2007). The concepts of constructional mismatch and type-shifting
from the perspective of grammaticalization. Cognitive Linguistics 18: 523-557.
- Van der Wal, M. (i.c.w. C. van Bree) (1992). Geschiedenis van het Nederlands.
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