LINGUIST List 23.5258|
Fri Dec 14 2012
Review: Historical Linguistics: Van Kemenade & de Haas (2012)
Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons
From: Theodore Stern <sterntheogmail.com>
Subject: Historical Linguistics 2009
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-2233.html
EDITORS: van Kemenade, Ans and de Haas, Nynke
TITLE: Historical Linguistics 2009
SUBTITLE: Selected Papers from the 19th International Conference on Historical
Linguistics, Nijmegen, 10-14 August 2009
SERIES TITLE: Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 320
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
REVIEWER: Theodore Stern, Département de Linguistique et Traduction, l’Université de Montréal
This volume is a selection of papers originally presented at the 19th
International Conference on Historical Linguistics (ICHL), held at Nijmegen,
the Netherlands 10-14 August, 2009. The book reflects the diversity of active
research agendas in contemporary historical linguistics. The majority of the
19 contributions focus on issues concerning diachronic syntax, within which
diachronic developments, active changes and sociolinguistic variation, and
historical reconstruction are all well represented.
Accordingly, the theoretical and analytical approaches are varied and reflect
the authors’ preferences coupled with supporting arguments for the adequacy of
the analytical tools used. The volume also treats a wide variety of languages;
the majority are European languages (or varieties with European roots), with
an important amount of ink devoted to Netherlandic (Dutch, Frisian, and
Afrikaans), extinct languages are also well represented (especially Latin) but
also non-attested Proto-Indo-European.
In “Competing reinforcements: When languages opt out of Jespersen’s Cycle”,
Theresa Biberauer raises questions regarding the universality of Jespersen’s
Cycle (Jespersen, 1917; JC), by which an original negative element (stage I)
is reinforced by the addition of an optional second negative elements (cf.
French ne peut (pas); stage II), the introduced second element may then become
obligatory (cf. standard French je ne suis pas); stage III), then followed by
subsequent weakening and optionality of the original stage I negative element
(cf. spoken French je (ne) sais pas, stage IV), with eventual disappearance of
the original negative element (cf. Haitian Creole se pa, stage V). Drawing
from her own previous work on Modern Spoken Afrikaans (MSA; Biberauer 2008,
2009) and previous work on Brazilian Portuguese (BP; Schwegler 1991, Schwenter
2005) suggests that JC deserves reanalysis in light of advances in syntactic
analysis (within a minimalist framework). Biberauer demonstrates that the
original negative element in both these languages is robust and not subject to
weakening, whilst the second negative element shows no signs of developing
prominence. She argues that JC cannot be maintained as a universal without
further analysis of the syntactic positions which the negative elements
occupy, positing that MSA and BP should not further advance in JC due to the
second negative element occupying a higher position in the syntactic structure
than negative elements previously shown to have advanced in JC.
In “One the reconstruction of experiential constructions in (Late)
Proto-Indo-European, Vit Bubenik discusses the analytical difficulties as well
as possible solutions for the reconstruction of Late Proto-Indo-European (PIE)
argument structure and the phraseology of constructions in which the
grammatical subject is the experiencer of the predicate. Drawing from across
Indo-European, Bubenik gives a portrait of the types of verbs susceptible to
take an experiencer as subject. He isolates different predicate types: verbs
of cognition and perception, verbs denoting changes in bodily states, as well
as certain verbs of modality. He further argues that only through a
“cognitive” analysis can these verb types attain a unitary typology, because
formal syntax offers no way to group such verb types into a non-arbitrary
In “Criteria for differentiating inherent and contact-induced changes in
linguistic reconstruction”, Jadranka Gvozdanović discusses the types of
evidence that can be used to determine the origins and push factors
responsible for linguistic change. Discussing Slavic accent shifts (Dybo’s Law
and Stang’s Law), Gvozdanović exposes the intricate details of these stress
shifts. Using Proto-Slavic reconstructions, knowledge of sociolinguistic
conditions in mediaeval Eastern Europe, and reconstructions of intermediary
stages of languages historically in contact with Slavic, she clearly
distinguishes between aspects of phonological change which can be shown to be
extensions of pre-existing structures and those which can be shown to be areal
features introduced through language contact.
In “Misparsing and syntactic reanalysis”, John Whitman presents arguments
against syntactic misparsing as a primary source of linguistic change, by
reanalyzing previously established genuine cases of misparsing. SOV word order
in Niger-Congo, claimed by Hyman (1975) to be genuine misparsing, is
demonstrated to reflect a change in category features of lexical items and not
of constituency. He analyzes “have” perfects (English: I have written) as
grammaticalization of a full verb as an auxiliary. (The same issue is taken up
by Hertzenberg later in the volume.) Similar category feature changes are
argued for in the development of Chinese bǎ and relabeling for English
constructions where “for” introduces an imbedded CP. He accepts certain of
Haspelmath’s 1998 misparsing and “rebracketing” examples as valid, notably
French V-t-il constructions where the post-verbal pronoun is promoted to a TP.
Whitman further argues that misparsing is not a primary source of linguistic
change through his “Conservancy of Structure Hypothesis” , where category
features and the level of projection of features may change as long as
c-command relations are maintained. This would penalize changes in
constituency where c-command relations would be destroyed. He thus rejects
that misparsing is as active in syntax as in phonology, where he accepts that
it is an active component in change.
In “How different is prototype change?” Margaret E. Winters and Geoffrey S.
Nathan, working within Cognitive Linguistics, discuss how change is
represented and explain within the “radial set” model (Lakoff 1987). They
explain the concept of prototype with the theoretical model used and present
examples of how phonological segments, lexical items, and mood and aspect
configurations are permeable over time in accordance with the idea that a
non-central analogous member of a set may become the central or prototypical
In “The syntactic reconstruction of alignment and word order: the case of Old
Japanese”, Yuko Yanagida focuses on a feature of Old Japanese that has proven
difficult in earlier research: a split alignment pattern in which main clauses
and nominalized clauses are nominative-accusative and actively aligned,
respectively. Yanagida shows that although such a morphosyntactic alignment
pattern appears typologically rare, it in fact can be shown to have parallels
with more widely attested types. After presenting the relative facts in Old
Japanese texts, Yanagida shows that through reconstructed Proto-Carib and
examples from Khoisan languages, Yanagida shows that active alignment in
nominalized clauses is not restricted to Japanese but has parallels in
Proto-Carib and languages of the KhoiSan family.
In “The Dutch-Afrikaans participial prefixe ge-: A case of
degrammaticalization?”, C. Jac Conradie discusses the differences in usage of
the past participle marker ge- between Dutch, Standard Afrikaans, and Orange
River (Griekwa) Afrikaans. He concludes that ge- in Afrikaans has been
partially degrammaticalized and is not optional for some speakers. Further, in
Griekwa, he posits that ge- (ga-, in this dialect) may well be on its way to
becoming a free morpheme. Conradie’s analysis is within Norde’s (2009)
degrammaticalization framework. The ultimate conclusion is that Afrikaans ge-
is a “subtle kind of degrammaticalization”.
In “Diachronic changes in long distance dependencies: The case of Dutch”, Jack
Hoeksema and Ankelien Schippers present a quantitative, corpus-based account
of changes involving wh-movement, wh-islands, and other movement or extraction
of subordinate clauses in Dutch. They show that over time Dutch has greatly
reduced the frequency of such constructions, except for the resumptive
prolepsis construction which has gained favour in speech. Ultimately, they
argue that their results are potentially problematic to the unification of
wh-movement into a single process (A-bar movement), as this neutralizes the
distinction between different long-distance movements in Dutch. In unifying
the processes, they argue, there is no explication as to why most movement
processes have become rare whilst resumptive prolepsis has gained much
popularity in the last 100 years.
In “OV and V-to-I in history of Swedish”, Erik Magnusson Petzell conducts a
corpus-based analysis of the frequency of OV constructions and V-to-I movement
in Swedish. OV, being ungrammatical in Old Swedish, is argued to have been
derived by synchronically active moment operations. Even though OV and V-to-I
are shown to be unrelated, Petzell uses arguments from language acquisition to
show that the two phenomena can be shown to be cognitively related and
recoverable from acquisition research.
In “Ethnicity as an indepent factor in language variation across space: Trends
in morphosyntactic patterns in spoken Afrikaans”, Gerard Stell gives a
multivariate analysis of different morphosyntactic variables in Afrikaans to
investigate whether the traditional classification of Afrikaans into “White”
and “Coloured” varieties is still valid.. He is particularly interested in the
geographic stability of such constructs and the parallel between Afrikaans and
English in the United States, where a distinct variety, African American
Vernacular English, has been shown to be not only racially based but also
unstable geographically. He shows a general convergence of all varieties
towards Standard Afrikaans, a construct which is shown to be typologically
similar to the standard speech of Transvaal whites.
In “The morphological evolution of infinitive, future and conditional forms in
Occitan”, Louise Esher argues that the Romance stem used in future and
conditional verb tenses is a morphome (Aronoff 1994), a morphological constant
which does not have any inherent semantic value in of itself. The future and
conditional morphome in Occitan, however, is one of Aronoff’s “intermediate”
cases, in that split paradigms exist in which the future and conditional do
not share a form, but each form does share a shape with another form in the
Biberauer presents excellent arguments for questioning a longheld universal,
and does show the crucial need for contemporary reanalysis of previously
established axioms. Importantly, she shows through thorough analysis of
negation phenomena in MSA and BP that not all negative concord systems are on
While the analysis does highlight the relevant phenomena, Biberauer draws no
conclusions as how to MSA’s and BP’s second negative element should be
analyzed, she does nonetheless offer the suggestion that “[the second negative
element]’s high left-peripheral position MAY in fact be head of a Polarity
Phrase” (Biberauer, 2009; emphasis mine). We should hope in the feature that
this is confirmed, or that another analysis is available.
Bubenik’s non-formalist cognitive approach to verbal semantics lends itself to
a readable scholarly piece which should be accessible to both historical
linguists as well as classically trained philologists working outside of a
generative-grammar paradigm. The pre-theoretical description he provides not
only is a stand-alone analysis of change in Indo-European argument structure,
but equally lends itself to reinterpretation through more formal theoretical
frameworks. This article should appeal to researchers in PIE studies, those
interested in argument structure, linguistic reconstruction and alternative
approaches to syntax.
Gvozdanović approach to the analysis of linguistic change, which blends formal
methods of linguistic reconstruction with no less emphasis on sociolinguistic
factors, is well worth the read for both formalists and functionalists alike.
Not only does she convincingly bind together various historical and
sociolinguistic factors at play in the stress shifts she examines, but her
thorough knowledge of prosodic structures allows her to determine which
changes are the product of pre-existing unstable prosodic conditions
susceptible to reinterpretation. Her novel approach is a boon for contemporary
historical linguistics: the marriage of Slavic philology with modern advances
in the understanding of suprasegmental structure. The article will be of
interest to not only Slavic philologists and historical linguists, but also to
synchronic prosodic phonologists.
Whitman’s evidence is solid and his analyses are sound, making this
contribution a worthwhile read for those working in syntax who take previous
analyses at face value. However, as Whitman’s “Conservancy of Structure
Hypothesis” is valid for the cases he has reanalyzed as non-misparsed input,
it does not explain how genuine misparsing, which he admits to in the French
example, should arise. His hypothesis is only briefly supported by anecdotal
evidence, without data from language acquisition, for as he readily admits “we
know that in normal syntactic processing hearers commit bracketing errors”. So
while the argument is interesting, the hypothesis needs further formal
Winter and Nathan present the general axioms of Cognitive Linguistics for
those with no previous exposure to the theory, and the brief but relatively
complete overview is admirable. The relative newness of the model requires
that the article is broad in its scope. Without a focus on a single historical
issue, one hopes that the authors’ broad theoretical framework can be applied
to specific linguistics issues in the future.
Yanagida is convincing in demonstrating how Old Japanese’s
cross-linguistically morpho=syntactic alignment pattern is less marked than
might be assumed. This is very much a specialist article, as the distinct
morphosyntactic alignment of Old Japanese would not generally be otherwise
encountered. And although some of the arguments are convincing, one may still
remain skeptical of the pertinence of the observations regarding similarities
between Old Japanese and Proto-Carib. The reader must ask to what point the
understudied reconstruction of Proto-Carib can be accepted as valid. If all of
the relevant analyses are tenable, than the article shows clear parallelisms:
however, as Yanagida’s observation repose heavily upon reconstructed data,
synchronic linguists might remain unconvinced.
Hoeksema and Schipper’s analysis, as they readily admit, is based on a written
corpus and thus may not reflect the diachronic status of the spoken language
at the time period in question. Their remarks regarding the impact of their
findings on the A-bar movement hypothesis remains speculative. I will be
interested to see in future analyses of their data if A-bar movement requires
reanalysis. If so, this contribution has the potential to become an important
piece in not only Dutch historical syntax, but also in contemporary syntactic
theory. However, as A-bar movement dates from Government and Binding days,
reevaluating its importance may be irrelevant in current syntactic theory.
The analytical scheme of multiple variables used by Stell in his
sociolinguistic experiments on Afrikaans, based on Labov and Harris (1986)
gives a good overall picture of the current state of affairs. Stell argues
that the “in-group” elicitation process proves very useful in getting accurate
data. Despite the introductory remarks regarding the parallels in the line of
enquiry between his Afrikaans experiments and those previously undertaken in
United States English, Stell gives only passing remarks on the conclusions to
be drawn when both Afrikaans and English data are taken into consideration,
thus missing an opportunity to posit certain sociolinguistic patterns which
can be found cross-linguistically.
What is extremely interesting about Esher’s contribution is her acceptance of
multiple layers of analysis which may contribute to the notion of “morphone”.
In recognizing that analysis of the conditional and future in Occitan cannot
be conducted “solely in phonological, syntactic, or semantic terms”, she
presents not only an interesting interface but also reasons for
re-investigating the place of morphology within grammar..
Overall, the volume contains some interesting contributions.. The diversity of
analyses in syntax, including Generative Syntax (Biberauer, Petzell, Kirk);
Cognitive Linguistics (Winters and Nathan). and Lexical-Functional Grammar
(Hertzenberg) is refreshing, as often different authors investigate similar
diachronic phenomena in different theoretical frameworks. Synchronic theorists
would benefit by examining the analyses presented; several present extremely
convincing analyses with synchronic implications (Biberauer, Whitman, Petzell,
The volume, which collects novel approaches to historical linguistic analysis,
is excellent intermediate to advanced reading for those working or studying in
historical linguistics and/or formal linguistic theory. As the conference
itself took place in 2009, many of the authors have presented their work
elsewhere in the meantime; some of the entries might thus be less complete
than more recent publications.
The collection is polyvalent in the sense that some of the contributions
address broad issues while focusing on specific issues. Others are only
focused on language-specific phenomena. On the one hand, even though most of
the contributions focus on issues in Indo-Euroopean languages, historical
linguists working outside of the IE family will nonetheless find applications
of modern techniques to reconstruction and the analysis of language change;
the merits of the volume are not restricted in this respect. On the other
hand, many of the chapters not summarized here are primarily addressed to
scholars working with specific languages and language families.
Aronoff, Mark. 1994. Morphology by Itself: Stems and Inflectional Classes.
Cambridge: MIT Press.
Biberauer, Theresa. 2008. Doubling and omission: insights from Afrikaans
negation. In Sjef Barbiers, Olaf Koeneman, Markia Lekakou and Margreet van der
Ham (eds.). Microvariations in Syntactic Doubling. 103-140. Bingley: Emerald.
Biberauer, Theresa. 2009. Jespersen off course? The case of contemporary
Afrikaans negation. In Elly van Gelderen (ed.). Linguistic Cycles.
91-130.Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Biberauer, Theresa and Cyrino, Sonia. 2009. Negative developments in Afrikaans
and Brazilian Portuguese. Ms. University of Cambridge/Stellenbosch University
& Universidade de Campinas.
Haspelmath, Martin. 1998. Does Grammaticalization Need Reanalysis? Studies in
Language 22. 49-85.
Hopper, Paul J. and Traugott, Elizabeth Closs. 2006. Grammaticalization.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hyman, Larry. 1975. On the Change from SOV to SVO: Evidence from Niger-Congo.
In Charles Li (ed.) Word Order and Word Order Change. 113-148. New York:
Labov, W. and Harris, W.A. 1986. De Facto Segregation of Black and White
Vernaculars. In D. Sankoff (ed.). Diversity and Diachrony. 1-24. Amsterdam:
Lakoff, George. 1987. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Tell
us about the Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Norde, Muriel. 2009. Degrammaticalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Schwegler, Armin. 1991. Predicate negation in contemporary Brazilian
Portuguese: a linguistic change in progress. Orbis 34. 187-214.
Schwenter, Scott. 2005. The pragmatics of negation in Brazilian Portuguese.
Lingua 115. 1427-1456.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Theodore Stern is a second year Master’s research student at the Université de
Montréal. Currently writing a master’s thesis on the breaking diphthongs of
Modern Transvaal Afrikaans, he is interested in phonology (Government, Element
Theory, OT, prosodic and metrical); the Germanic languages (especially
Afrikaans, Dutch and English), the Romance languages. He hopes to do a PhD in
the cognitive reality of speech segments and its implications for formal
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