LINGUIST List 12.92

Wed Jan 17 2001

Books: Historical Linguistics

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  1. PEEL, Alison, Historical Ling: Syntactic Change in Akkadian by G. Deutscher

Message 1: Historical Ling: Syntactic Change in Akkadian by G. Deutscher

Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 14:07:12 -0000
From: PEEL, Alison <>
Subject: Historical Ling: Syntactic Change in Akkadian by G. Deutscher

Syntactic Change in Akkadian, the evolution of sentential complementation.
Author: Guy Deutscher, Cambridge.
Oxford University Press.

Akkadian is the oldest Semitic language, and one of the earliest and
longest attested languages (ca. 2500 to 500BC). Its richly documented
history contains a large corpus of letters written in a spontaneous
and colloquial style, which are as close to the spoken language as can
be expected from any written genre. Using this unique historical
corpus, Guy Deutscher examines the development of complements and
other subordinate structures in Akkadian over a period of two
millennia. The book addresses various theoretical issues relating to
sentential complementation, and attempts to resolve these by
maintaining a strict division between a functional and a structural
perspective. The diachronic changes in Akkadian are examined from
these two different perspectives. The structural history follows the
development of new structures: it describes how finite complements
first emerged from adverbial clauses, only during the historical
period. It also traces the slow grammaticalization of a quotative
construction, over a period of two millennia. The functional history
charts the changes in the roles of existing structures over time. It
shows how, during the history of the language, finite subordination
became more widespread, whereas other structures (e.g. infinite
complementation and parataxis) receded. Finally, the developments in
Akkadian are examined from a comparative perspective, and are shown to
have parallels in many other languages. It is suggested that some of
the historical changes in Akkadian may be seen as 'adaptive', and
related to the development of more complex patterns of communication
in a more complex society.

Hardback, ISBN: 0-19-829988-5
UK list price: �40.00 
Publication date: 9 November 2000
US list price: $70.00
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Friday, December 08, 2000