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Grammaticization in Language Evolution

Grammaticization in Language Evolution. Salikoko S. Mufwene University of Chicago. Grammaticization as a diachronic process. Grammaticization as historical change … comparable to semantic shift It is a functional shift

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Grammaticization in Language Evolution

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  1. GrammaticizationinLanguage Evolution Salikoko S. Mufwene University of Chicago

  2. Grammaticization as a diachronic process • Grammaticization as historical change • … comparable to semantic shift • It is a functional shift • It is gradual: a) in the way it evolves; b) in the way it spreads within the community • It is part of language evolution • It is defined by its outcome, not as a specific kind of restructuring process • It is unidirectional, but not necessarily unilinear nor rectilinear

  3. Grammaticization as semantic shift: • Chair[N, furniture] chair[N, position of authority]  chair[V, preside over] • (up)on+ NP  (up)on + V-ing  a-V-ing  V-ing • … on board/shore  aboard/ashore • Creoles: a + V (as in im a kom) • The evolution coopts extant morphosyntactic principles, such as predication with a copula when the head of the predicate phrase is non-verbal in English, whereas no such constraint applies in creoles • The creole pronunciation of a reflects its phonology

  4. Grammaticization is gradual: • … the preposition must combine with a nominal object in English • The bleaching of the preposition causes a reanalysis of the verbal noun • Creoles differ from modern standard English partly in regard to what carries the PROGRESSIVE meaning (Cultural aspect of evolution) • Variation in creoles reflects the extent to which the construction has spread among speakers

  5. Grammaticization is part of language evolution: • It contributed to the gradual divergence of creoles from their lexifiers • It is also evident in: go(ing) to N going to V  gonna V  gon V • It is also a process of idiomatization (*gonna N) • Creoles: a) a go V; b)go V • No break in the evolution from the lexifier to creoles, though the influences are multiple • “Multiple influences” conjures up variation, compe-tition, and selection in this particular evolution • Reanalysis cannot be separated from grammaticiz-ation

  6. Grammaticization is a functional shift: • Lexical category shift: down-N (‘hill’)  down-P/ADV • ... often concurrent with reanalysis: by side (P+N)  beside; by hind  behind; by fore  before • Do composite prepositions such as in front of, in back of, and in addition to represent transitional stages? • … reminiscent of quantifier phrases such as a number/amount of(Note also a certain amount of; an unspecified number of) • A basic mechanism in grammaticization is the cooptation of extant items or structures for new functions, just like exaptation in biological evolution

  7. Etymologies are informative • The processes/strategies may originate in the proto-language, as in the case of FUTURE and PERFECT constructions in French • They may originate in another language, such as the article el in Spanish • Invocations of “apparent grammaticalization” in creolistics are unjustified • Language speciation is a consequence of population movements and language contacts, which produce alternative strategies or new ways of using extant materials

  8. “Polygrammaticalization” as bifurcated evolution: • Evidenced by layering: New patterns do not necessarily displace the older ones, e.g. the gram-maticization of side, back, front, etc. • Two or more processes of grammaticization can occur concurrently, as with fu/fi/fə< Eng for [f]in Atlantic English creoles: Complementizer fu as in Im wan fu go and the purposive modal fu as in Im (ben) fu go. • This is an evolution facilitated by the for-to comple-mentizer construction in English and by the option of verbless predication in creoles and some substrate languages • Two creoles can also take divergent paths, as with a go + V in Jamaican Creole but go + V in Gullah

  9. Grammaticization often contributes to (more) variation and therefore to competition • Alternative FUTURE constructions in Jamaican Creole: wi + V vs a go + V • Specialization of FUTURE constructions in standard English: will + V vs be going to + V • Inter- and intra-idiolectal variation, e.g., Gullah DURA-TIVE: V-in’ vs də V vs də V-in’ • Time may (not) resolve the competition, though selection need not eliminate variation

  10. Universal pathways of grammaticization? • Universal tendencies and alternatives, e.g., cooptation of terms for body parts to denote location and of locative expressions for temporal reference (e.g., she stood/came behind me); the cooptation of ‘want’, ‘go’, or ‘come’ for FUTURE constructions • Largely a function of extant strategies in the language (variety), as in *(in) front/back *(of) me; However, in Sranan: (na) baka a oso vs oso baka

  11. The meaning of “emergent grammar”: • Speakers as makers of their languages, during their communicative acts • … through their innovations and deviations • At the idiolectal level, repetition and extension of the new behavior to related items restructure the system • At the communal level, the restructuring that matters is what is copied by and spreads among other speakers • “Emergent grammar” does not deny the existence nor significance of “grammar” as generalizations over the behaviors of classes of items

  12. There is no restructuring process that is unique to grammaticization • Not semantic/functional shift • Not reanalysis • Not semantic bleaching and generalization • Not the idiomatization of the relevant construction • Not the phonetic reduction • Only the outcome makes grammaticization different: the specialization of a form/construction for a grammatical function

  13. The debate on unidirectionality seems misguided: • Unlike movement in space, evolution proceeds in time and in one direction • … although it can be bifurcated, multilinear • It need not be rectilinear • No evidence of degrammaticization has been adduced that illustrates a reversal of the grammati-cization trajectory: e.g., if down-V has evolved from down-P, the latter did not evolve from the former.

  14. Hints about the evolution of language: • The structural and function exaptations observable in grammaticization are not unique to this process • Most such exaptations must have occurred several times in the hominid phylogeny, coopting different components of the extant communicative means • Such exaptations are not planned and are initiated by individuals, from whom they spread within the wider population • Different individuals do not innovate in identical ways, a state of affairs which fosters variation, competition, and selection • The “hidden hand” produces the communal norm, largely through mutual accommodations among speakers

  15. Hints about the evolution of language - 2: • Social-interactional dynamics make all changes gradual at the communal level • Ecological changes and ontological mutations within the hominid line militate concurrently for a gradual perspective on the evolution of language • There is not much evidence for punctuated equilibrium or catastrophic evolution • … though the speed of evolution has not been the same at all stages of the hominid phylogeny

  16. Hints about the evolution of language -3: • The evolution of language seems to have proceeded more or less like that of computers, with the inter-vals of innovations becoming shorter and shorter and their consequences ranging wider and wider later and later in time. • But I really need a separate paper on different stages of the evolution of language to support these speculations with paleontological “evidence.”

  17. Thank you!http://humanities.uchicago.edu/faculty/mufwene/then click on “Goodies” for some heresies

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