LINGUIST List 14.380

Thu Feb 6 2003

Review: Historical Linguistics: Fanego, et al. (2002)

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  1. widu_kind, English Historical Syntax and Morphology

Message 1: English Historical Syntax and Morphology

Date: Thu, 06 Feb 2003 13:59:50 +0000
From: widu_kind <widu_kindyahoo.es>
Subject: English Historical Syntax and Morphology

Fanego, Teresa, Maria J. Lopez-Couso and Javier Perez- Guerra,
eds. (2002) English Historical Syntax and Morphology: Selected Papers
from 11 ICEHL, Santiago de Compostela, 7-11 September 2000. John
Benjamins Publishing Company, hardback ISBN 90-272-4731-5, viii+297pp,
Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 223.

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/13/13-2727.html


Miguel Ayerbe Linares, 
Department of English and German Philology, University of the Basque Country.

This book is a selection of papers presented at the 11th International
Conference on English Historical Linguistics held at the University of
Santiago de Compostela from the 7th to the 11th September 2000. In
general terms there is not any thematical organization of the papers,
such as morphology or syntax. The papers are simply presented in
alphabetical order. Nevertheless they can be classified in some way
by main issues, as the editor Fanego (p. 2) says in the general
introduction. These main issues are grammaticalization processes,
noun phrase, word-formation processes, verbs and dialectology and
sociolinguistics. The selected papers are as follows:

* Minoji Akimoto, 'Two types of passivization of 'V+NP+P'
 constructions in relation to idiomatization' (pp. 9-22)
* Cynthia L. Allen, 'On the development of 'a friend of mine''
 (pp. 23-41)
* Douglas Biber and Victoria Clark, 'Historical shifts in
 modification patterns with complex noun phrase structures:
 How long can you go without a verb?' (pp. 43-66)
* Laurel J. Brinton, 'Grammaticalization versus lexicalization
 reconsidered: On the 'late' use of temporal adverbs' (pp.
 67-97)
* Dieter Kastovsky, 'The derivation of ornative, locative,
 ablative, privative and reversative verbs in English: A
 historical sketch' (pp. 99-109)
* Lucia Kornexl, 'From 'gold-gifa' to 'chimney sweep'?
 Morphological (un)markedness of Modern English agent
 nouns in a diachronic perspective' (pp. 111-129)
* Manfred Krug, 'A path to volitional modality' (pp. 131-
 155)
* Ursula Lenker, 'Is it, stylewise or otherwise, wise to use '-
 wise'? Domain adverbials and the history of English '-wise''
 (pp. 157-180)
* Bettelou Los, 'The loss of the indefinite pronoun 'man':
 Syntactic change and information structure' (pp. 181-202)
* Anneli Meurman-Solin, 'The progressive in Older Scots'
 (pp. 203-229)
* Ruth M�hlig and Monika Klages, 'Detransitivization in the
 history of English from a semantic perspective' (pp. 231-
 254)
* Julia Schl�ter, 'Morphology recycled: The Principle of
 Rhythmic Alternation at work in Early and Late Modern
 English grammatical variation' (pp. 255-281)

In the first one Akimoto analyses the two possible types of
passivization for 'V+NP+P' in English, i.e. the inner passive, for
example 'Advantage was taken of the students' (Akimoto p. 9) and the
outer passive 'The students were taken advantage of', in a historical
perspective. Three are the main issues that the author examines in the
paper: which type of passivization appeared first? Which one of them
is more frequent with the 'V+NP+P' construction? And finally, how is
the development of these types of passivization related to the process
of idiomatization?

The sources for this analysis are collected on the one hand from a
list of texts ranging from the 17th to the 20th centuries, and on the
other hand from the Oxford English Dictionary on CD-ROM (OED) and from
the COBUILD CD-ROM (for Present-day English). The author also presents
a brief discussion about the possibilities of passivization based on
previous studies in this field.

In his analysis the author points out that previous scholars did not
pay attention to certain details which are however �according to
him� very important, such as whether the preposition is obligatory or
not, the distinction between deverbal nouns with suffixes and those
without suffixes. From his point of view these aspects are very
decisive because they have implications in the structure, and also in
the later development, of the 'V+NP+P' construction.

Cynthia L. Allen directs her attention to the development of
constructions like 'a friend of mine', which has also been called the
'post-genitive' or 'double genitive' construction. First of all the
author of this second paper mentions some previous studies about the
origins of this construction, although she focuses on that of Van der
Gaaf (1927) (full title at the end of this review). Two seem to be the
aims of Allen's paper: firstly she attempts to clarify, as much as
possible, when this construction first appeared in English; secondly
she suggests the different stages this construction seems to have gone
through. In this sense it seems to be clear, according to her, that
the first constructions of 'a friend of mine' come from the middle of
the 14th century. At this stage she points out that, if the term
'partitive' has sometimes been used when dealing with 'double
genitive' constructions, yet it is not a very appropriate term for
referring to this kind of constructions. The reason for that is that
'partitive' usually refers to a set consisting of more than one member
while 'double genitive' constructions do not imply that one set has
necesarily more than one member, as can be seen in the example (10) on
page 28 of her paper: 'It is not the sort of pleasantry which I like
to hear from a daughter of mine'. The one who says this sentence does
so even though he only has one daughter.

By speaking about the later development of this sort of constructions
Allen suggests that they have gone through the following stages: a)
Early Middle English: Possessive pronoun used to mean 'people/things
associated with pronouns' combined with partitive 'of' with no nominal
head and referring to part of a set. b) Fourteenth century: partitive
meaning shifts to 'member of a set' meaning; noun headed double
genitive construction arises. c) Fifteenth century: double genitive
extended to demonstratives (and marginally to definite determiner)
(p. 35). Concerning the 'double genitive' construction with definite
determiners, although she includes it in her investigation, she
concludes that it was never firmly established in English.

In the third paper Douglas Biber and Victoria Clark deal with
historical shifts in modification patterns with complex noun phrase
structures which have long been a distinguishing feature between
formal written language and spoken language. According to the
authors, non-clausal modifiers are much more common than clausal
modifiers in Present-day English, but this has not always been so: in
earlier periods of the English language the reliance on clausal
modifiers in written registers was greater than in Present-day
English, where, as mentioned above, the non-clausal modifiers are more
common. From this point of view the authors undertake in their paper
the tracking of the historical shifts from clausal modifiers to
non-clausal ones in Present-day English. The corpus of written
registers for this study includes communication texts, such as
journals and personal letters, prose fiction, news, and specialist
registers, such as medical and scientific prose.

Laurel J. Brinton reconsiders the processes of grammaticalization and
lexicalization from both a theoretical and a practical point of
view. According to the author both processes are not fully understood
today and therefore the distinction between them remains unclear. In
this way, the aim of this paper is firstly to examine these processes
as they have been defined in the scientific literature and secondly to
carry out an attempt to clarify the nature of both processes by
analysing the evolution process of temporal adverbs into attributive
adjectives in English. It must also be pointed out that the author
focuses the investigation on the lexicalization process and describes
the different understandings of this concept found in previous
linguistic works. In fact, this description provides a general view of
how lexicalization has been understood, which serves the author as
starting point for developing her investigation in this paper.

In another paper Dieter Kastovsky carries out a historical overview of
the derivation of ornative, locative, ablative, privative and
reversative verbs in the English language. This semantic categories
were already established in the Old English period with some
exceptions and this can be seen in affixation and zero-derivation
processes. At this stage it is very important to note that these
derivational processes took place with 'native' affixes, such as 'be-'
and 'on-'. Nevertheless, the later introduction of Latin and French
prefixes, such as 'en-, de-, dis-' strengthened this sort of verbal
word formation, including other semantic categories which were
represented to a lesser extent in earlier periods of English, such as
the ablative and the locative verbs. According to the author, this
fact has caused this set of derivational processes to be much more
productive in Modern English.

The paper 'From 'gold-gifa' to 'chimney sweep'' by Lucia Kornexl deals
with the formation of the Agent category. The author describes some
patterns which are known from Old English to Modern English and
directs her analysis in a special way to formal unmarkedness �in
contrast to the markedness by '-er' suffix� of this category in order
to explain the diachronic continuity of this pattern from Old English
to Modern English. For this purpose, she takes into account previous
scholarly studies on this matter and points out where further
investigation is needed.

Manfred Krug talks about the semantic and syntactic development of
'want', focusing his analysis in Early Modern and Late Modern
English. The reason for giving more relevance to these periods of
English language is that, according to the author, it was in Early
Modern English that the rise of new constructions with 'want'
occurred, two of them being modal (p. 149). The Late Modern English
period is also relevant because the rapid spread of modal
constructions with 'want' took place in this time. Krug describes the
different meanings of this verb throughout the history of English,
from 'lack', which was the original meaning, to 'volition', as modal
used in Present-day English.

Domain adverbs and the history of the English suffix '-wise' is the
object of Lenker's paper, which is said, as stated by the author, to
have appeared first in colloquial American English during the 1940s.
Lenker presents the first reactions to the use of sentence adverbials
in '-wise'. At the very beginning there was a negative response from
the point of view of certain linguists, who severely criticized this
new trend. Nevertheless these new sentence adverbials became usual and
quickly accepted. After giving this external overview, the aim of this
paper is to describe the syntactic and functional properties of the
coming into being, historical development and later use of the suffix
'-wise' in Present-day English. Because of its formal relationship to
German 'Weise' and the suffix '-(er)weise', the author of the paper
carries out a historical comparative analysis between the German and
the English language. At the end of the paper Lenker comes to the
conclusion that sentence adverbials in '-wise' are not a borrowing
from German but innovations in American English. Among the motivations
for this innovation Lenker points out that the suffix '-wise' is used
for derivation for adverbials from non-Latin roots, which do not allow
the suffix '-(c)ally'.

Bettelou Los deals with the loss of the indefinite pronoun 'man',
which, as the author says, was lost in English during the fifteenth
century. In spite of the fact that many previous studies on this
matter already exist, the author states (p. 181) that there are two
factors that have been overlooked when investigating the loss of this
indefinite pronoun: on the one hand the competition between
subjunctive 'that'-clauses and 'to'-infinitives, and on the other
hand, the loss of verb-second place, which also took place during the
fifteenth century. Los briefly describes previous proposals for
explaining the loss of 'man' in English and also explains why they are
no more satisfactory.

Anneli Meurman-Solin talks about the development of the progressive in
Scots from the middle of the fifteenth century onwards. This analysis
is carried out from various perspectives. First of all, there were
different variants, like forms in '-ing' and in '-and', and the author
attempts to analyse them in order to see whether each one of these
variants really had a paradigmatic status, so they had specialized
distributions. For this study Meurman-Solin bases the analysis on the
Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots 1450-1700 (HCOS), and also on the
'Criminal Trials of Scotland (1561-1591)' and on letters from the
Corpus of Scottish Correspondence (CSC), from the seventeenth - and
early eighteenth - century. In another section the different types of
progressive are described, and there the analysis of the type 'be
(i.e. copula) + preposition + a verb in - ing', its development and
spread provide some information about the possibility that insular
Celtic had an influence on the development of the progressive in
English due to its formal similarity with Celtic 'copula +
preposition/aspectual marker + gerund'.

'Detransitivization in the history of English from a semantic
perspective' by Ruth M�hlig and Monika Klages deals with the
processes of verbs which were originally transitive but developed an
additional intransitive use. Since previous studies of
detransitivization have been carried out only from a syntactic
perspective (so the authors p. 231), the aim of this paper is to focus
the analysis on a semantic perspective. At this point it is important
to note that M�hlig and Klages differ from the traditional definition
of transitive verbs ('those governing an object in the accusative
case' p. 231) and suggest for their study a new definition: 'those
verbs which typically take a Goal-object as their second argument,
i.e. verbs which express an action or process which affects a second
participant, regardless of morphological case' (p. 231). They also
differentiate between 'intransitive use' and 'intransitive verbs'; the
former refers to verbs which in certain cases do not have or do not
appear with a Goal-object while the latter refer only to those verbs
which never extend beyond the first participant, i.e. the
subject. The analysis is carried out by following four patterns of
detransitivized use: Co-referential, generic, ergative and finally
middle use. At the end of the paper this study shows that semantic
properties play a relevant role in syntactic change and therefore
future studies from a semantic point of view in this field are
necessary.

The last paper in this volume belongs to Julia Schl�ter, who deals
with the role phonological factors play on grammatical
variation. Schl�ter focuses her study on the Principle of Rhythmic
Alternation illustrated with the Old English participial suffix '-en',
the suffix '-ly' for adverbs derived from adjectives, the variable
marking of infinitives and, finally, the variable presence of the
'a-'prefix in '-ing' participles. Historically the analysis covers
the English language from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries,
although there are also some references to earlier stages of English,
like the Old and Middle English periods. In her study Schl�ter shows
how the Principle of Rhythmic Alternation may determine the presence
or absence of grammatical morphemes and markers. From another point of
view, in other cases in which there are phases of indecision or
indeterminacy affecting grammatical morphemes or markers, it is this
Principle that can in some way overrule grammatical motivations.

In general, although the object of each paper is different, most of
them seem to share the view that the changes and processes that they
describe take place more or less in the same period of history of the
English language, i.e. from Early Modern English onwards. Nevertheless
the analysis sometimes goes back to earlier stages of English. The way
in which authors present their papers is very practical because they
never deal with their object directly, as if they were addressing
scholars with a broad knowledge of English historical linguistics, but
instead they always introduce the object of the paper by defining what
they are talking about (for instance, what a 'double genitive
construction' is), then discuss the studies that have been published
previously, and finally carry out their own analysis and draw their
conclusions. By doing so, the matter of the paper is very easy to
understand to any scholar, even though he or she does not have a deep
knowledge of historical linguistics. The analysis of the development
of each matter is presented in most of cases in the form of tables in
which one can get a general overview of the whole process.

Authors often compare the situation of the matter they are dealing
with in English language with that in other Germanic languages, like
Dutch or German, which is very useful because, by doing so, they
provide a broader view of the situation in order to see whether the
change is only local or whether it is also general and takes place in
other Germanic languages as well. This can also be very helpful to
scholars who do not have a good command of Germanic languages.

Formally there is just one thing to criticize. Although it is not of
great importance, perhaps it would make the reading somewhat easier to
place the notes at the bottom of the page rather than at the end of
the paper. The way in which they are currently located in the volume
causes the reader to go backward and forward through the paper too
often.

To sum up, this volume is of great interest for the study of the
history of the English morphology and syntax, although the topics, as
mentioned above, focus on processes that took place between the Early
Modern and Modern English periods. They really provide a better
understanding of the development of certain structures of the English
language that we know today. 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

The reviewer works at the Department of English and German Philology
at the University of the Basque Country (Spain). He has studied German
Philology in Seville, Cologne and Munich. His research interests
include historical development of Germanic languages and historical
mutual influences between Germanic and Romance languages, especially
in their oldest stages, from the perspective of Areal Linguistics.
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