Review of Formal Evidence in Grammaticalization Research
EDITORS: An Van linden, Jean-Christophe Verstraete, Kristin Davidse,
TITLE: Formal Evidence in Grammaticalization Research
SERIES TITLE: Typological Studies in Language (TSL) 94
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
Susan Lixia Cheng, School of Foreign Studies, Dalian University of Technology
This volume originated in connection with the conference 'From ideational to
interpersonal: Perspectives from grammaticalization' (FITIGRA) held at the
University of Leuven, February 10-12, 2005.
As grammaticalization has become an increasingly popular approach in
linguistics, scholars have included more and more instances of change in the
category of grammaticalization. Does grammaticalization really risk being used
to refer to any type of language change involving some aspect of grammar, as
warned in the contributions in Campbell (2001)? Meanwhile, what potential danger
is there if the emphasis on semantic pathways and pragmatic factors is growing
while less and less attention is drawn to formal evidence for the changes? These
questions are the main concern of the present volume, which, in order to create
balance, attempts to show the crucial role of formal evidence in the
In addition to a survey of grammaticalization studies worldwide over the last
two decades, the editors' ''Introduction'' offers a brief summary to the
individual contributions. They also divide the ten papers into two parts. The
first groups together four case studies investigating the important role of
grammatical systems in the grammaticalization process and exploring paths of
change and grammatical factors determining the start and end of a path. The
second contains six articles, all strongly usage-based, dealing with various
formal recognition criteria of grammaticalization with rich corpus evidence.
Olga Fischer's ''On problem areas in grammaticalization: Lehmann's parameters and
the issue of scope'', focuses on the change of scope in the development of
English epistemic modal constructions such as 'he must be home by now' (her
example) and suggests that scope increase from VP to the whole proposition, as
argued in Tabor & Traugott (1998) and Roberts & Roussou (2003), can be seen as a
case of scope stability if other constructions involving modals are taken into
account. For example, the epistemic constructions arose as a result of various
related grammatical changes in Middle English, such as the rise of structural
subjects. Therefore, she argues that there is no need to give up Lehmann's
parameter of scope reduction that is interwoven with his other parameters in the
development of English epistemic modals. Fischer also suggests that the role of
language users and the overall synchronic grammatical system have to be taken
into consideration in the study of grammaticalization.
The emergence of many grammatical categories cannot be explained in terms of the
semantic properties of the source and the target or in terms of other
cognitively-based processes or language use such as metaphor, metonymy, usage
and frequency of use, as pointed out in Zygmunt Frajzyngier's
''Grammaticalization within and outside of a domain'', where the term
'grammaticalization' is used in a broader sense to refer to the emergence of
coding means of grammatical categories within functional domains. Taking the
grammaticalization of tone in several Chadic languages as an example of
grammatical markers developing from non-lexical sources, Frajzyngier argues that
human ability to analyze language, though most often unconsciously, is a primary
factor motivating grammaticalization within the functional domain involving
modification of existing coding means such as tone. And grammaticalization
within the domain can also explain the emergence of binary distinctions in
''Delexicalizing 'di': How a Chinese noun has evolved into an attitudinal
nominalizer'' by Foong-ha Yap, Pik-ling Choi & Kam-siu Cheung focuses on the
development of the Chinese locative/spatial noun 'di' into a nominalizer then
into a relativizer and genitive marker and also into an adverbial subordinator
and an attitudinal marker. The analogical influence of other nominalizers such
as 'suo', 'xu' and 'zhe' plays an important role in the semantic expansion of
'di'. Yap et al. also find similar developments involving the reanalysis of
head-final nominalizers as sentence-final mood particles in other Chinese
dialects and many other East Asian and Tibeto- Burman languages. They argue that
prenominal modifying expressions emerge by extension from nominalization
constructions and the head-final nominalizers in Chinese such as 'zhe' and 'di'
in sentence-final position become natural carriers of sentence-final prosody and
thus are likely to be reanalyzed as sentence-final particles.
The conjunctionless conditionals, according to Jespersen's Model (1940), arose
from a paratactic discourse sequence with a polar interrogative, while Harris &
Campbell (1995) claimed that this model lacks theoretical and empirical
foundation. Daan Van den Nest in '''Should conditionals be emergent°≠': Asyndetic
subordination in German and English as a challenge to grammaticalization
research'' revisits the asyndetic conditionals to demonstrate how these
conditionals may emerge from discourse and a grammaticalization process has
actually taken place. In German, Van den Nest finds a spectrum of formal
variation ranging from dyadic sequences to asyndetic conditionals, which
suggests that speech-situation evocation is relevant to the formation of
interrogative-based conditionals. Whereas in English the asyndetic conditional
is non-emergent in relation to interrogatives, which, Van den Nest argues, may
be the result of the low ratio of asyndetic to syndetic conditionals throughout
the history of English.
In ''From manner expression to attitudinal discourse marker: The case of Dutch
'anders''', Hans Smessaert and William Van Belle offer a model to identify the
three major subtypes of the Dutch adverb 'anders' in terms of comparison and
phoricity. Type I (+comparative/+phoric) functions as a manner adjunct or
valency term, or as part of a participant NP or complex predicate. Type II
(-comparative/+phoric) functions as a conjunctive adverbial, connecting either a
negative protasis to its apodosis or expressing exceptive relations. Type III
(-comparative/-phoric) functions as an attitudinal discourse marker, expressing
stances of doubt or dissatisfaction about the proposition in its scope. And
word-order differences further underpin the proposed tripartition. Smessaert and
Van Belle finally relate the synchronic analysis of 'anders' to
grammaticalization theory and its underlying formal criteria to the parameters
and principles of grammaticalization proposed by Lehmann (1985) and Hopper
(1991). For example, the transition from proportionality for Type I via
accommodation for Type II to total absence with Type III can be related to
Lehmann's obligatorification and Hopper's specialization.
Mirjam Fried's ''Grammaticalization and lexicalization effects in participial
morphology: A Construction Grammar approach to language change'' explores a
mixed-category participial form in Slavic. Attached to a verbal participial
stem, the form shifted over time from having more verbal to having more
adjectival characteristics. By a close examination of the criteria that have
been proposed as common manifestations of grammaticalization, in contrast to
lexicalization, Fried concludes that the observed categorical changes bear the
features of the former. The partial transitions involved in the shift are shown
to depend on an intricate interaction between the morphosemantic structure of
the participial form and certain recurring syntagmatic contexts. This she
interprets as a case of constructionalization (Traugott 2008). She also argues
for Construction Grammar as a theoretically coherent basis for plausible
generalizations about complex diachronic shifts.
''Frequency as a cause of semantic change: With focus on the second person form
'omae' in Japanese'' by Reijirou Shibasaki takes a frequency-based approach to
reveal the distributional patterns of the second person form 'omae' at several
historical stages and its development from a noun meaning 'front' into a third
person and then into a second person pronoun. Shibasaki relates the semantic and
referential shifts involved in the process to the changing distribution of
nominal and pronominal uses and also relates the different uses to a
distributional analysis of their grammatical roles. The development of 'omae',
he argues, was subject to semantic depreciation from being restricted to
superiors to among equals then to being restricted to subordinates, and
frequency functioned as a cause of this semantic change.
Sung-Ock Sohn, in ''The role of frequency and prosody in the grammaticalization
of Korean '-canh-''', offers empirical evidence of the role of frequency and
boundary tones in the emergence of '-canh-', a new interactive marker from the
committal suffix 'ci-' plus negation verb 'anh-' (viz. '-ci anh-') in Korean.
Spoken corpus data, drawn from natural discourse, show that '-ci anh-' is used
in declaratives, imperatives and propositives like English 'you know' to express
the speaker's assumption that the interlocutor will agree with the message
conveyed. Sohn finds that the source form is marked with a high boundary tone
while the emergent form is marked with a low boundary tone. And both the source
and the target forms exhibit a distinct pattern of collocation frequency. This
study suggests that the prosodic features and frequency may interact in the
process of grammaticalization.
''Emergence of the indefinite article: Discourse evidence for the
grammaticalization of 'yige' in spoken Mandarin'' by Meichun Liu explores the
grammaticalization of 'yige' from a numeral classifier into an indefinite
article in spoken Taiwan Mandarin. The spoken data show that 'yige' is used with
high frequency to introduce a new referent into the discourse and its
distinction goes beyond the typical boundary of a numeral classifier. It may
occur with NPs that do not require number or class marking, such as proper
names, abstract, non-referring and even plural nouns. And it may also occur in
affirmative, non-interrogative and independent or main clauses. Liu argues that
'yige' is functionally overgeneralized and realigned with a new grammatical
status in marking indefinite referentiality.
Julia Schluter, in '''To dare to or not to': Is auxiliarization reversible?'',
revisits the alleged unidirectionality of grammaticalization and
auxiliarization, by focusing on the marginal modal 'dare', which has since Early
Modern English times developed certain full verb characteristics that would
assign it a place near the lexical end of the grammaticalization scale. Here
auxiliary, full verb and ambiguous forms are distinguished by the formal
features such as inflectional endings, do-support and the use of bare vs.
to-infinitives. Schluter argues that 'dare' can be seen as a case of
de-auxiliarization and de-grammaticalization, and the decrease in frequency of
the auxiliary forms is a reflex of de-grammaticalization. But she also cautions
that 'dare' is neither a typical example of auxiliarization nor of
de-auxiliarization but rather partakes of both processes. The results
furthermore point to cross-cutting influences on the marking of dependent
This is the ninety-fourth volume in John Benjamins' Typological Studies in
Language Series and, as the title suggests, its major contribution is to
highlight the steering role of formal evidence from the grammatical system (i.e.
from linguistic structures) in the process of grammaticalization, with three
main issues under discussion: (1) system-internal factors determining the path
of grammaticalization; (2) recognition criteria for grammaticalization; (3)
frequency as a formal factor in grammaticalization.
Functional theories view grammatical elements as form-function correlations and
approach grammar from the perspective of usage and discourse. Admittedly,
semantic relations between the source and target categories and its cognitive
and cultural motivations are integral part of grammaticalization, but why do
lexical items take a specific path towards a grammatical function and why do
they end up in a specific place in the grammatical system? In answering these
questions, the present volume, with extensive data and convincing argumentation,
shows that the architecture of a particular language system and the internal
structure in the system can lead the grammaticalizing items towards specific
endpoints. The dialectic of grammatical systems and grammaticalizing items
touches the definition and delineation of grammaticalization.
The second issue about recognition criteria of grammaticalization is related to
the reconnection of the traditional recognition criteria of grammatical
relations with the defining criteria of changes leading to the formation of
grammatical syntagms and paradigms. Interestingly, some foundational analytical
constructs such as the inseparable pair between syntagm and paradigm, system and
markedness, are to some extent revindicated in the studies of formal evidence in
Increased frequency is argued to be a formal factor in grammaticalization. The
articles by Shibasaki, Sohn and Liu rely heavily on Bybee's work on frequency.
The shift from lexical to grammatical function, Bybee (2003) argued, can be
expected to be accompanied by a noticeable increase in frequency as lexical
items are much less frequent than grammatical elements, and the changed
distribution of the grammaticalizing item also causes its increase in frequency.
Without doubt, frequency increase not only results from grammaticalization but
also contributes to it, for example, by promoting phonological, morphosyntactic
or semantic changes. Indeed, my major reservation about this volume is the
status of frequency as a ''formal factor'' (cf. p. 7) in grammaticalization.
Boyland (1996) points out that grammaticalization is the process of
automatization of frequently-occurring sequences of linguistic elements. And
repetition of grammaticalizing constructions leads to habituation. These
processes resemble the changes that occur as non-linguistic skills are practiced
and become automatized and generalized. Repetition, as Bybee (2003) argued, has
certain effects on neuromotor and cognitive representations. In that sense
frequency falls more easily into the system-external pragmatic/cognitive
category instead of the system-internal one.
From the above it should be clear that this volume contains both extensive
examination of data and insightful interpretation of grammaticalization. All ten
contributions are also clearly organized and rigorously edited. It is a valuable
contribution to the empirical study of grammaticalization and a must-read for
anyone interested in language change and historical linguistics.
Boyland, Joyce T. 1996. Morphosyntactic change in progress: A psycholinguistic
approach. Berkeley, CA: University of California dissertation.
Bybee, Joan L. 2003. Mechanisms of change in grammaticalization: The role of
frequency. In Joseph, Brian D. & Richard D. Janda (eds.), The handbook of
historical linguistics, 602-623. Oxford: Blackwell.
Campbell, Lyle (ed.). 2001. Grammaticalization: A critical assessment. Special
issue of Language Sciences 23.
Harris, Alice C. & Lyle Campbell. 1995. Historical syntax in cross-linguistic
perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hopper, Paul J. 1991. On some principles of grammaticalization. In Traugott,
Elizabeth C. & Bernd Heine (eds.), Approaches to Grammaticalization, vol. 1,
17-35. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Jespersen, Otto. 1940. A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles, 4
vols. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
Lehmann, Christian. 1985. Grammaticalization: Synchronic variation and
diachronic change. Lingua e Stile 20. 303-318.
Roberts, Ian & Anna Roussou. 2003. Syntactic change: A minimalist approach to
grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tabor, Whitney & Elizabeth C. Traugott. 1998. Structural scope expansion and
grammaticalization. In Ramat, Anna Giacalone & Paul J. Hopper (eds), The limits
of grammaticalization, 229-272. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Traugott, Elizabeth C. 2008. ''All that he endeavoured to prove was°≠'': On the
emergence of grammatical constructions in dialogic contexts. In Cooper, Robin &
Ruth Kempson (eds.), Language in flux: Dialogue coordination, language
variation, change and evolution, 143-177. London: Kings College Publications.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Susan Lixia Cheng holds a PhD in Linguistics and is associate professor at
Dalian University of Technology, China. Her research interests include
grammaticalization, historical linguistics and linguistic typology.