Kurt R. Jankowsky
Francis Bacon’s (1561–1626) demand for scientific language investigation, supplemented by Gottfried Leibniz’s (1646–1716) endorsement of natural scientific methodology, provided the theoretical framework, further elaborated by William Jones (1746–1794) and Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), for Friedrich von Schlegel’s (1772–1829) comparative grammar and facilitated Franz Bopp’s and Jacob Grimm’s (1785–1863) subsequent practical work for the Indo-European and Germanic languages, respectively, culminating in the Neogrammarians’ axiom of “Sound laws suffer no exception” and the development of language typology.
Béatrice Lamiroy and Walter De Mulder
This article analyses the variation in degrees of grammaticalisation across languages. It proposes the hypothesis that an essential property of grammaticalisation also applies within a genealogical family and that several grammaticalization processes may be more advanced in one language than in the other languages of the same family. It provides evidence from three Romance languages and shows that French, has reached a further stage of grammaticalisation than Spanish and Italian.
John A. Hawkins
This article looks at Edward Sapir’s notion of ‘drift’ in the history of the English language and examines drifts from the perspective of John A. Hawkins’ Performance-Grammar Correspondence Hypothesis (PGCH). According to the PGCH the preferred word orders selected by users in languages with word order freedom are those that are grammaticalized in languages with less freedom and with more fixed and basic orderings. Languages with different verb positions are also predicted by the PGCH to have numerous different correlating properties. In the context of historical change, the PGCH provides a set of principles that are argued to have shaped the evolution of new conventions of grammar as languages change over time. What seem like unrelated changes in the history of English, currently reflected in contrasts between English and German, are examined from this language processing perspective. Many of these changes and contrasts involve greater ambiguity or vagueness in surface forms, both in the lexicon and in the syntax, and a tolerance for temporary ambiguities in performance resulting from the new basic verb position of Middle and Modern English.
This article considers grammaticalisation in relation to linguistic typology and presents topological studies of grammaticalisation. It addresses the question of how grammaticalisation is realized, a question that ultimately entails a typology of manifestations of grammaticalisation. It suggests that the processes of grammaticalisation are not cross-linguistically homogeneous because there is a certain degree of cross-linguistic variation concerning the interaction between pragmatics and form. It also argues that East and mainland Southeast Asian (EMSEA) languages represent a type of grammaticalisation that is characterized by its limited coevolution of meaning and form.
Whereas the typological change of the English language from syntheticity towards analyticity has been described almost exclusively for the inflectional domain, little attention has been paid to the developments in derivation. Focusing on the changes in inflection, however, ignores the fact that this change was embedded in more general trends which also affected the derivational component of English and thus the lexicon. This article describes an alternative perspective on the change of English’s typological profile by analyzing three major changes (one quantitative and two qualitative ones) that occurred in the English lexicon: changes in the frequency of use of bound morphemes (affixes) employed for the indication of lexical categories; changes in the morphological status of lexical bases and thus in the structure of “words”; changes in how a language packages semantic material into words, that is, in the internal semantic structure of words (conflation).
Linguistic typology has come to play an important, multifaceted role in the long-established field of historical linguistics. Its manifestations within historical linguistic study are addressed. The examples chosen to illustrate these applications are drawn from Indo-European historical linguistics. A major interest of historical linguists in recent years has been the establishment of macrofamilies through the identification of distant linguistic relationships. Grammaticalization involves ‘an evolution whereby linguistic units lose in semantic complexity, pragmatic significance, syntactic freedom, and phonetic substance’. The exploration of linguistic prehistory is always a speculative enterprise. Although an important multifaceted role for linguistic typology within historical linguistics is now firmly established, differences of theoretical opinion remain among historical linguists regarding how current typological formulations are to be applied to the prehistoric linguistic structures posited by historical linguists.
One of the large-scale changes in the history of the English language is the loss of grammatical gender, a phenomenon termed the “Great Gender Shift” by Patricia Poussa. In this typological change, grammatical gender in nouns was lost and semantics overrode gender in pronoun agreement. The form of the pronoun came to be determined by real-world properties of animacy, number and sex of the referent. The third-person singular pronouns (the present-day he, she and it) came to mark gender that was generally determined on the basis of semantic criteria. Greville Corbett’s agreement hierarchy predicts that pronouns are always most likely to show semantic rather than grammatical agreement with their antecedents. This article suggests that the successful variants (that is, those increasing in frequency) in some well-known pronoun changes were those that are most compatible with the agreement system. The connections between the changes seem to result in the so-called frequency drift in the system.
This article explores various ways in which established and recent theories, concepts and methods in language typology are, or can be, relevant for investigating language change in general and the history of English(es) in particular. It considers the ways that the study of the history of the English language may benefit from a modern typologist’s take on language variation and change. Language typology can be used in at least four different ways to rethink the history of English and English historical linguistics: in light of (pervasive) cross-linguistic tendencies; in light of larger patterns or correlations among structural changes; in light of the major branches of diachronic typology, especially diachronic word order typology and grammaticalization; and in light of recent theories and especially (quantitative) methods in language typology. Another factor involved in this rethinking process is dialectology.