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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EDITORS:Hendery, Rachel and Hendriks, Jennifer TITLE: Grammatical Change: Theory and Description SERIES TITLE: Studies in Language Change 6 PUBLISHER: Pacific Linguistics, College of Asia and Pacific, Australian National University YEAR: 2010
Anuradha Sudharsan, Department of Linguistics & Contemporary English, The English & Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India
This collection of papers came out of a workshop organized by the Centre for Research on Language Change at the Australian National University, Australia. The papers represent a range of issues related to grammatical change viewed from different theoretical perspectives, from the functional, to structural, to generative. The volume draws together different lines of enquiry by relating grammatical change not only to morphology, phonology and semantics, but to discourse and socio-cultural aspects of language as well. Another noteworthy feature of these papers is that the data analysed is drawn from recorded texts of different languages belonging to diverse language families. To begin, the volume has an introduction by the editors which gives an overview of what each paper is about.
The paper on substantival adjectives by Cynthia L. Allen, the first in the series, considers the disappearance of substantival adjectives (i.e. adjectives which can occur without a head noun) in modern English (MoE). In old English (OE), however, adjectives showed agreement with their head noun, so this noun didn’t have to be expressed. Allen challenges assumptions coming from a lack of careful examination of attested data by saying that data she has gathered from historical texts does not support the traditional view that morphological change leads to syntactic change; nor does it give evidence for the prediction made by the Principles and Parameter Theory (PPT), which states that once the features that license a pro are lost, it is necessary to express the head noun. Allen gives evidence from both “rich inflection” texts and texts without rich inflection to show that substantival adjectives continued to occur in English even after the loss of inflection. Interestingly, they occur in texts in which the head noun is already expressed in an earlier sentence. She goes on to say that the construction actually began to decline long before the change which is supposed to have triggered its decline. She concludes by explaining that the occurrence of substantival adjectives is determined by the type of texts, discourse factors, etc.
In the paper on prenominal possessor doubling constructions (PPDCs) in West Germanic, Jennifer Hendriks takes a stand similar to the one taken by Allen. She shows that recorded data on PPDCs does not support the commonly held view that PPDCs are a result of a two-stage process of grammaticalization, or that of reanalysis and extension. PPDCs are generally considered to be the result of reanalysis of clausal syntax into nominal syntax. Hendriks goes on to assert that there is diachronic evidence for the existence of PPDCs even in the earlier stages of German and Dutch and that they do not show any construction-specific dative marking, which seems to give counterevidence for the reanalysis theory. She concludes by saying that the development of PPDCs was by no means a single, straightforward process, but rather involved a series of discontinuous, sometimes unrelated, changes. All this seems to suggest that in investigating grammaticalization, careful attention must be paid to dates, contexts, and other details of the texts examined.
In her paper on the stative ‘have (got)’ in New Zealand English (NZE), Heidi Quinn tries to account for the drastic increase in the occurrence of the stative ‘have’ with inalienable possessions. As in the previous papers, Quinn’s analysis is based on attested evidence from modern corpora in the form of data collected from the speech of NZE and from recorded utterances of early speakers of NZE. She explains the occurrence of the stative ‘have’ with inalienable possessions by saying that it has actually undergone a major syntactic reanalysis from an auxiliary-like functional head to a lexical verb. The stative ‘have got’ is actually an intermediate structure which arose when the auxiliary-like ‘have’ changed to become a lexical verb. Thus, when the lexical verb moves to predicate head position, the copy trace left behind is pronounced as ‘got’. What this study shows is that it is important to supplement and support any quantitative analysis of change with qualitative syntactic analyses.
The paper on “Edge aligned syntactic reconstruction”, by Eric R. Round, too, relates grammatical change to non-grammatical domains of language. Round gives a totally different view of syntactic reconstruction by showing that there exists a relationship between phonology and syntax which can be the basis for syntactic reconstruction. Earlier traditional approaches viewed that phonetic change, and phonetic reduction in particular, could lead to grammatical change. What is novel about Round’s approach is that it shows that one could draw inferences about pre- or protolanguage word order change from phonological reconstruction. This is done by exploiting correspondences between phonological phrases (i.e. minor intonation phrases) and syntactic phrases in order to reconstruct the syntax of Tangkic.
Winnie Chor’s paper, which looks at the role of semantics in the grammaticalization of three direction verbs in Cantonese, represents an interface between grammatical and non-grammatical aspects of language in grammatical change. Although these verbs are shown to follow certain pathways of semantic change attested cross-linguistically, they, however, exhibit certain unique characteristics depending on their original individual meanings. For instance, a linear development is seen in the development of ‘gwo3’. The particle comes to have an experiential sense via metaphorical extension and then a “single-repetition”. In the case of ‘hei2’, besides metaphorical extension, pragmatic factors played a crucial role in its development. Finally, drawing upon Traugott’s (2003) account, she points out another tendency observed in semantic change towards greater subjectivity, which involves “strengthening of expression of speaker involvement” (p. 99). The particle ‘faan1’ shows this path of development.
In her paper on grammaticalization of discourse particles into relative clauses, Rachel Hendery reviews case studies made earlier of several genetically and aerially unrelated languages such as Tocharian, Quechua, Georgian, and Basque and shows that in all these languages discourse marking elements were grammaticalized into relative clause markers. As in Allen’s account, this study also emphasizes the importance of attested evidence. Hendery is of the view that there must be some connection between discourse markers and relative clause markers that can create “a likely pathway” (p. 116) of grammaticalization. Relative clause markers in world languages invariably mark clause boundary and anaphoricity. Discourse markers occur at phrasal and sometimes clausal boundaries. They also tend to co-occur with markers already present. This way, the function of discourse markers overlaps with that of relative markers. The co-occurrence of the two elements gradually leads to semantic bleaching, phonological reduction, cliticization, and finally, the fusion of the two elements to form a single complex. Therefore, grammaticalization is the result of several such historical processes.
The paper “Mood swings: Imperative verbs attract pronominal enclitics in Ngumpin-Yapa (Australian) and southern European languages”, by Patrick McConvell, examines the placement of clitics in imperatives and non-indicatives in Greek, Romance, Southern-Slavic and Ngumpin-Yapa and shows that there are similarities in pattern of variation among these languages. The paper draws parallels between Macedonian and Bulgarian, on the one hand, and Australian languages on the other. The general pattern is that in Macedonian, clitics follow the verb only in imperatives, while following the second position (2P) pattern in Bulgarian. This parallels the contrast in Australian languages between enclisis in imperatives in central Ngumpian and second position in Yapa and Northern Ngumpian languages. European languages such as Greek and Romance also show clitics occurring post-verbally in imperatives. What follows from these observations is that imperative mood is the conditioning factor for enclisis and this seems to be the crucial evidence for a universal typological characteristic, since it is found in diverse language families.
Joe Blythe provides an interesting account of grammaticalization in Murriny Patha in terms of non-grammatical factors, which represents an interface she terms “Kintax”. She argues that the socio-cultural factors regarding kinship relations played a crucial role in the emergence of the typologically unusual system of Murriny Patha ethical dative verb markers. This paper brings together diverse elements such as socio-cultural factors and recorded linguistic data within a morphosyntactic theory to account for the rising of ethical dative verb markers in Murriny Patha.
In his paper James McElvenny shows that the evolution of ‘lai’ (‘hither’) as a direction particle in modern Mandarin is in fact an example of divergence. Looking at data from old and modern Chinese texts, he traces the development of the particle ‘lai’. The lexical verb ‘lai’ (‘come’) occurred in two syntactic environments similar to the separable and inseparable occurrence of the particle in modern Mandarin. In old Chinese, the separable occurrence had non-causative meaning while the inseparable one had causative meaning, which is not seen clearly in the corresponding modern ‘lai’ constructions. This, he says, is due to loss of verbal morphology which marked this distinction. The overlapping functions of ‘lai’ in modern Mandarin, he says, exemplify the phenomenon of divergence. Furthermore, the verb, over time, lost its ability to have independent argument structure and the argument of the clause began to be determined by the verb that accompanied ‘lai’. In this study, McElvenny demonstrates that examination of attested data is crucial to any syntactic reconstruction.
The papers in this volume are refreshingly innovative in their approach to syntactic reconstruction and some of the important issues they raise merit further research. The collection integrates syntax, phonology, semantics, and pragmatics by showing that grammatical change is triggered not just by morphological or phonological changes, as is shown in most traditional treatments, but also by other factors such as discourse and socio-cultural aspects of language. Of particular interest is the question regarding the relationship between grammatical change and socio-cultural factors, which has the potential of providing new directions for future research in syntactic reconstruction.
The chief merit of the collection is taking a data-driven approach to the study of grammatical change, in spite of its title, which suggests that it is concerned with the theory and description of grammatical change. Although each of the papers looks at grammatical change from a different perspective, the common threat that runs though all of them is the underlying assumption that it is data that drives theory and not the other way around. In this way, the volume seems to fill a gap in current studies on grammatical change, many of which fail to achieve a balance between theory and data analysis.
Another merit of this volume is that it considers data from less-frequently studied languages, for instance, of Australia and China, alongside data from well-researched European languages. It draws parallels between these language families, which is crucial in any typological study. On the whole, the volume makes good reading for researchers and also students who are interested in research on syntactic change.
All said and done, a series like this would be more reader-friendly if it included a short abstract at the beginning of every paper, a subject index, and perhaps a glossary of some less-known technical terms for the benefit of less advanced students.
Roberts, Ian and Anna Roussou. 2003. Syntactic change: a minimalist approach to grammaticalization. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Anuradha Sudharsan teaches introductory and advanced courses in
morpho-syntax, minimalist syntax, parametric syntax, and historical
linguistics. Her main research areas are as follows: Kannada syntax,
syntactic change, and language convergence. She has presented and published
papers on Kannada syntax, syntactic change, and contact-induced change. She
would also like to write a book on Dravidian diachronic linguistics.