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|Subject:||Causes of Loss of Inflection|
I am very interested in the growth and decay of the process of
inflection in language. As you know, Latin and ancient Greek were
highly inflected languages, as were many other ancient Indo-
European tongues (Old Slavonic, Sanskrit, etc).
My question is: why is it that inflection decayed over time in
nearly every one of these old languages? Does technological
development somehow trigger inflectional decay?
No. Some situations are more stable than others, is all.
What happened to Latin is instructive. Latin's paradigms were very tightly organized,
with lots of cues to gender, case, and number on the nouns, for instance. But the cues
were all at the end of the word. And the ends of a word are where it wears away.
A few very common and natural sound changes occurred at the ends of words (loss of
long vowels and final /m/, for instance), and most of the distinctions made in the very
highly fused Latin paradigms were lost from perception, leaving syntactic constructions
to take up the slack.
This is an example of what's often called the "Grammaticalization Cycle":
|Reply From:||John M. Lawler click here to access email|