Grammaticalisation


Grammaticalisation

In historical linguistics, grammaticalisation (also known as grammaticisation or grammatisation) is a process of linguistic change by which a content word (lexical morpheme) changes into a function word or further into a grammatical affix. Involved in the process are various semantic changes (especially bleaching) and phonological changes typical of high-frequency words.

Common "grammaticalisation chains" include the evolution of nouns (such as positional or body part words) to prepositions, prepositions to inflectional affixes on nouns (noun declension); and the evolution of nouns to pronouns, pronouns to inflectional affixes on verbs (verbal conjugation); and finally deflexion, the disappearance of those inflectional affixes altogether. At some point new nouns may start evolving into new inflections, repeating the cycle.

Background

The traditional explanation proposed by linguists for grammatical change centers on imperfect child language acquisition. While acquisition usually occurs in the first few years of a child's life, it can occur later on. For example, the Japanese honorific system, which historically has been learned upon reaching adulthood well after the normal language acquisition process is complete,Fact|date=February 2007 has gone through repeated cycles of reduction from full words to suffixes to deletion and loss, suggesting that something else is going on.

Hypotheses

It is now commonly proposed that grammaticalisation is a function, not of imperfect acquisition, but of automatization and reduction of highly frequent language patterns. That is, words found together with a high frequency in speech come to be cognitively processed as single units, and that these units then evolve as individual words. For example, the highly frequent construction " [be] going to [verb] " as a future marker has evolved into " [be] gonna [verb] ," especially in casual speech, while the word "go" as a main verb is unaffected by this change. Likewise, the most common form of "be" used with this expression, first-person singular "I'm gonna [verb] ," have further contracted to "I'm'onna [verb] " or even to "I'ma"Fact|date=June 2007, whereas the other, less frequent, persons have not done this.

The unidirectionality hypothesis proposes that these grammaticalization chains preferentially evolve in one direction, for example that prepositions and pronouns may reduce to inflectional affixes, but that such affixes do not give rise to prepositions or pronouns. There are, however, a very few counter-examples, such as in the development of Irish Gaelic with the derivation of the 1st person plural pronoun "muid" from the historic inflectional affix "-mid" (as in "táimid" "we are"), and the derivation of the object pronouns from historic object person affixes, such as "tú" from "-t-" in verbal complexes such as "no-"t"-charaím" "I love you". The rarity of such counter-examples is used as an argument to support the unidirectionality hypothesis.

Mechanisms

There are four related mechanisms involved in grammaticalisation:

* Desemanticisation — The broadening or abstraction of meaning or content
* Extension — Use in new contexts.
* Decategorialisation — Loss of morphosyntactic properties
* Erosion — Loss of phonetic substance

Examples

*In English, the word "go" became a change-of-state marker (e.g. "He went home" vs. "He went mad") and a future tense marker ("I am going to the store" vs. "I am going to eat", contracted to "I'm gonna eat").
*In French, "ici" "("here")" became a demonstrative marker, e.g. "Il est ici" "("He is here")" and "Cet homme-ci" "("This man-PROXIMATE")." Also in French, as the verbal agreement system eroded, the use of subject pronouns became obligatory, and these pronouns are now clitics and can no longer be used on their own (the forms that can are different).

Formalist responses

The unidirectionality hypothesis challenges generative grammar, as the underlying hypothesis of Universal Grammar postulates that there is no preferred direction to historical language change. However, in "Grammaticalisation as Optimisation", Paul Kiparsky argues that grammaticalisation may be understood as a non-exemplar-based optimisation. While he considers analogy as exemplar-based optimisation, grammaticalisation would be an optimisation based on the principles of Universal Grammar.what

See also

* cline (linguistics) which notes "cline of grammaticalisation"

References

* Heine, Bernd and Kuteva, T. (2002) "World Lexicon of Grammaticalization", Cambridge University Press
* Hopper, Paul J., and Traugott, Elizabeth C. (1993) "Grammaticalization". Cambridge University Press.
* Heine, Bernd; Claudi, Ulrike; and Hünnemeyer, Friederike (1991) "Grammaticalization: A Conceptual Framework". University of Chicago Press.
* cite book
last=Fischer
first=Olga
coauthors = Muriel Norde and Harry Perridon
title = Up and down the Cline – The Nature of Grammaticalization
publisher = John Benjamins
url = http://www.benjamins.com/cgi-bin/t_bookview.cgi?bookid=TSL 59
date = 2004
pages = 406 pages
isbn = 9789027229687


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