Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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AUTHORS: Brinton, Laurel J. and Elizabeth Closs Traugott TITLE: Lexicalization and Language Change SERIES: Research Surveys in Linguistics PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press YEAR: 2005
Richard J. Whitt, Department of German, The University of California at Berkeley
The last three decades have witnessed a tremendous amount of research on grammaticalization, i.e. how previously non-grammatical linguistic items enter the grammar of a language, or how already grammatical elements become ''more'' grammatical (see Hopper and Traugott 2003 for a general introduction). Sadly, far less attention has been paid to lexicalization -- the entry of lexical items into a language's lexicon. The scholarship on grammaticalization and lexicalization has been far from unified; myriad approaches abound, and there are even contradictory suggestions in the literature. Brinton and Traugott (hereafter B/T) have attempted to address this state of affairs in their ''Lexicalization and Language Change,'' in which they suggest unified definitions of grammaticalization and lexicalization, and then propose an integrated approach to both phenomena of language change.
B/T present us with an historical overview of the subject matter in Chapter 1, ''Theoretical contexts for the study of lexicalization and grammaticalization.'' They take a functional-typological, as opposed to a generative, approach to integrating the study of grammaticalization and lexicalization. After a brief overview of historical linguistics, the authors discuss matters related to the lexicon, which include the nature of lexical items, the problems one confronts when attempting to define a lexical or grammatical category, the notion of gradience, and productivity (type frequency vs. token frequency). Next the authors provide us with the synchronic and diachronic issues related to lexicalization and grammaticalization. Conceptual representations and syntax are relevant to the synchronic study of lexicalization, while how items enter the lexicon is pertinent to diachronic study.
Regarding grammaticalization, B/T first address the criticisms of the detractors of grammaticalization research (i.e. Newmeyer 1998, Campbell 2001), and then proceed to discuss the more grammatical contexts of lexical items, e.g. the status of English 'like.' The authors conclude the chapter with a survey of issues relevant to the diachronic study of grammaticalization: decategorialization, gradualness, fusion and coalescence, typological generality, metaphorization and metonymization, subjectification, bleaching, and frequency.
In Chapter 2, ''Lexicalization: Definitions and viewpoints,'' B/T provide a survey of the research on lexicalization. Three general definitions of lexicalization are given: ordinary processes of word formation; processes of fusion resulting in a decrease in compositionality; and processes of separation resulting in an increase in autonomy. In an examination of ordinary processes of word formation, the authors discuss a wide range of phenomena including compounding, derivation, blending, back formation, and loan translation (much of their discussion is based on Bauer 1983). Institutionalization is also given some attention. B/T look at the notion of ''lexicalization as fusion'' next and included in their overview are demorphologization and phonogenesis, as well as idiomaticization and demotivation. They wrap up the chapter with an examination of ''lexicalization as increase in autonomy,'' in which they focus on cliticization and decliticization.
B/T discuss ''Views on the relation of lexicalization to grammaticalization'' in Chapter 3. They begin by looking at cases of language change that some consider lexicalization, but others consider grammaticalization (for example, 'today' from Old English to + dæge 'at day-DAT'). These phenomena often involve fusion or coalescence. Unidirectionality is discussed next, and then B/T examine differing views on degrammaticalization and its relationship to lexicalization (i.e. whether the former is part of the latter or not). An examination of derivation and inflection concludes the chapter.
The authors propose ''an integrated approach to lexicalization and grammaticalization'' in Chapter 4. They note that both phenomena involve new form-meaning pairs entering into a language's inventory and assume a model of grammar that is ''dynamic, allows for constructions, gradience, and degrees of productivity'' (91). They also note the importance of productivity to both lexicalization and grammaticalization. B/T suggest that a continuum between fully grammatical (productive) and fully lexical (nonproductive) items exists, and postulate three degrees each for grammaticality and lexicality: G3 (fully grammatical; affixes that affect grammatical class) <> G2 (semi-bound forms) <> G1 (periphrases) <> L1 (partially fixed phrases) <> L2 (complex semi-idiosyncratic forms) <> L3 (fully lexical; simplexes and maximally idiosyncratic forms).
B/T continue by revisiting definitions of lexicalization and grammaticalization. After surveying existing viewpoints, the authors suggest an integrated definition lexicalization: ''...the change whereby in certain linguistic contexts speakers use a syntactic construction or word formation as a new contentful form with formal and semantic properties that are not completely derivable or predictable from the constituents of the construction or the word formation pattern. Over time there may be further loss of internal constituency and the item may become more lexical'' (96). They do the same for grammaticalization, which they define as ''the change whereby in certain linguistic contexts speakers use parts of a construction with a grammatical function. Over time the resulting grammatical item may become more grammatical by acquiring more grammatical functions and expanding its host-classes'' (99). Some attention is given to how these processes may be reversed, i.e. delexicalization/antilexicalization and degrammaticalization/antigrammaticalization. B/T conclude Chapter 4 by discussing some of the parallels between lexicalization and grammaticalization (metaphorization and metonymization, for example), as well as phenomena exclusive to grammaticalization (such as bleaching and decategorialization).
In Chapter 5, B/T present us with a number of case studies (all from English) in which the roles of lexicalization and/or grammaticalization are relevant. The authors examine the evolution of the present participle, multi-word verbs ('nod off,' 'calm down'), compositive predicates ('give a response,' 'have a try'), adverbs formed with –ly, and discourse markers. With the composite predicates, for example, lexicalization occurs when a verb—consider 'lose' in 'lose sight of,' for example—becomes nonproductive, has a fixed form, falls outside the productive rules of grammar, and is idiomaticized. On the other hand, when ''light'' verbs ('make,' 'take,' 'give,' 'have,' 'do') are involved in the formation of composite predicates, aspectual meaning emerges, as can be seen with 'take a look' versus 'look'. Here, grammaticalization is involved.
Chapter 6 concludes ''Lexicalization and Language Change,'' and after B/T summarize the previous five chapters, they pose questions that need to be addressed by future research. They consider possible and impossible changes in language, pointing out the difficulty with lexicalization because of its idiosyncratic nature, as well as problems involved in distinguishing between derivational and inflectional morphology. Questions related to category transitions are also posed, with attention being given to gradience and gradualness. Typological shifts are also addressed. In the section on discourse types, B/T advocate the use of corpora for linguistic research, and note the issues related to text types and genre when working with historical sources. Finally, questions related to the role of language contact in language change are posed.
B/T's ''Lexicalization and Language Change'' is a much welcome addition to the scholarship on grammaticalization and lexicalization. It is a great sourcebook in which the authors mention all significant scholarship in the area and point out all the different approaches of the previous three decades. And, their integrated approach to these two phenomena of language change is elegant and appealing. This book is certainly a must-read for anyone interested in lexicalization and grammaticalization because the authors cover the relevant issues in a short space. Brinton and Traugott's work is also a great teaching resource -- especially for English linguistics -- because the authors provide straightforward definitions and many examples.
A few minor criticisms are also in order. For one, although B/T provide ample examples throughout the book, the majority of these examples come from English. Since lexicalization and grammaticalization appear to be universal phenomena (cf. Bybee, Perkins, and Pagliuca 1994), a broader sampling of languages would have been nice. To their credit, Brinton and Traugott mention in the Preface that they have focused on English ''for reasons of time and resources'' (x). Also, generativists have been giving grammaticalization quite a bit of attention recently (see, for example, Roberts and Roussou 2003 or van Gelderen 2004), and although the authors give the generativist approach some attention (such as in the discussion of unidirectionality, pp. 69-74), it would have been nice to see a little more of how generativists might address certain problem areas mentioned by B/T. In the case studies of Chapter 5, for example, a generativist analysis might have been suggested alongside the functionalist solutions provided by the authors. But again to their credit, B/T mention early on that they take a functionalist-typological approach, so the relative absence of the generativist approach is not unexpected nor necessarily unwarranted.
Aside from any minor shortcomings their work might have, B/T's ''Lexicalization and Language Change'' is a worthy addition to the research on lexicalization and grammaticalization, and anyone interested in these phenomena should consider reading it.
Bauer, Laurie. 1983. English Word Formation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bybee, Joan L., Revere Perkins, and William Pagliuca. 1994. The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Campbell, Lyle. 2001. ''What's wrong with grammaticalization?'' In ''Grammaticalization: A critical assessment.'' Ed. Lyle Campbell. Language Sciences 23:2-3, 113-161.
Gelderen, Elly van. 2004. Grammaticalization as Economy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hopper, Paul J. and Elizabeth Closs Traugott. 2003. Grammaticalization. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Newmeyer, Frederick J. 1998. Language Form and Language Function. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Roberts, Ian G. and Anna Roussou. 2003. Syntactic Change: A Minimalist Approach to Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Richard J. Whitt is a doctoral candidate in Germanic Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is currently working on his dissertation on evidentiality and perception verbs in English and German. His research interests include semantics, pragmatics, syntax, historical linguistics, and cognitive linguistics.