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Academic Paper

Title: The Definiteness Cycle in Germanic
Author: Elly van Gelderen
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Arizona State University
Linguistic Field: Historical Linguistics; Linguistic Theories
Subject LANGUAGE Family: Germanic
Abstract: In this paper, I provide examples from Germanic of cyclical changes involving the nominal phrase. Using a DP structure, it can be observed that demonstratives in specifier positions of the DP are reanalyzed through time as articles in head positions. The change from demonstrative to article is known as the definiteness cycle and described in Greenberg 1978 and Lyons 1999. Providing examples from Old Norse, Old English, and Afrikaans, I suggest an explanation for the cycle in terms of a cognitive principle, Feature Economy, that assists in language acquisition and hence language change.


This article appears IN Journal of Germanic Linguistics Vol. 19, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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