By Sari Pietikäinen, Alexandra Jaffe, Helen Kelly-Holmes, Nik Coupland
Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003 23:31:06 +0100 From: email@example.com Subject: Review: Time over Matter. Diachronic Perspectives on Morphosyntax
Butt, Miriam & Tracy Holloway King, ed. (2001) Time over Matter. Diachronic Perspectives on Morphosyntax. CSLI Publications. Center for the Study of Language and Information, Leland Stanford Junior University, paperback ISBN 1-57586-282-4, VI+246pp, Studies in Constraint-Based Lexicalism.
Reviewer: Gerda Hassler, Institut für Romanistik, Universität Potsdam
This volume comprises seven papers examining problems in historical (morpho)syntax from the perspective of Lexical- Functional Grammar (LFG). The first paper written by Nigel Vincent entitled "LFG as a Model of Syntactic Change" serves as an introduction. He seeks to develop a general case for the contribution that a lexically-based correspondence model of grammar can make to our understanding of morphosyntactic change. He starts with the discussion of continuity and discontinuity in language change and points out that Lightfoot criticises grammaticalisation theorists for their insistence on continuity and directionality in change, while they in turn criticise him for ignoring the challenge that grammaticalisation data seem to pose to discontinuous models. He argues that LFG has not come encumbered with the ideological crust that has accreted around much of the current debate on language change. It is a model which allows a reconciliation of the legitimate, twentieth-century concern for linguistics to be a formal discipline with the inevitable fuzziness that comes from the anchoring of language at least in part in the pragmatically and semantically determined goals of language use. The word "functional" has been incorporated into the name of at least two other grammatical theories, namely Halliday's Functional Grammar and Simon Dik's Functional Grammar. While these "functionalist" views are committed to seeing language primarily in its socio- communicative dimension, the architecture of LFG opens up the possibility that "functional" in the sense of functionalist considerations might be involved in the principles which dictate the correspondence between structures. Discussing Lightfoot's position, the author argues that a differential granularity of change is what is missing in much of the generative polemicisation about change. LFG is presented as a model that allows space both for large-scale and small-scale shifts. In the theory of grammaticalisation, Vincent holds the view that sees change as having a direction. But the key question is whether this frequently observed directionality is built into the definition of grammaticalisation or whether it is an empirical hypothesis thrown up by research within this framework. The phenomenon of grammaticalisation, and especially its directional asymmetry, are real and in need of explanation. Finally, Vincent argues that they can be modelled in LFG. Vincent discusses several points dividing researchers, such as Optimality Theory. All Romance languages, for example, exhibit a class of items known as clitics, and in all the modern languages these items occupy one or more of a number of syntactically determined positions in relation to the verb. In Latin, the ancestors of the modern pronouns for the most part followed Wackernage's law and occurred in second position in their clause. Put at its most simple, the Latin distribution was prosodically determined whereas the modern distribution is dictated by syntactic principles, albeit different ones in different languages, and at different times in the history of the respective language. Anderson (2000) shows how in an analogous situation in Serbo-Croat the second position effect is economically and naturally derived through the interaction of two constraints. Discussing the advantages of LFG in explaining language change, Vincent points out that it avoids many vices of other theories: it does not beg the issue of realisation and thus can provide a representational basis for competing variants out of which change can grow. It is not forced to see morphosyntactic change as the response to the erosive effects of sound change.
The second paper, written by Cynthia Allen, deals with "The Development of a New Passive in English". In such passives, frequently called "indirect" or "recipient" passives (example: He was given a book), it is not the theme, but the recipient that is treated as the subject. LFG offers a simple explanation of the timing of the appearance of this new construction, while the traditional assumption that case- marking ambiguity directly led to a re-analysis does not. Allen argues that the introduction of the recipient passive is in fact evidence of the re-analysis, but the re-analysis was not of the fronted indirect object as a subject, but it was the re-analysis of the indirect object in active sentences as a direct object. This change was gradual and proceeded at a different pace with individual verbs. Allen assumes a more indirect connection between the loss of case marking and the introduction of the new construction, since it is highly plausible that the loss of case marking encouraged speakers to rely more and more on constituent order for sorting out the grammatical and semantic relations of a sentence. The immediate trigger for the re-analysis, however, was the fixing of constituent order.
The subject of Julia Barron's paper is "Perception and Raising Verbs: Synchronic and Diachronic Relationships". She examines the relationship between verbs denoting visual perception or visible appearance and subject-to-subject raising verbs denoting epistemic judgment. She looks at synchronic relations between verbs of perception and raising verbs, and then she shows how one notion of semantic bleaching may correspond to the historical dissociation of function and theta-role. Semantic bleaching, however, is not a sudden process, but a gradual one. Given that vision is the primary sensory source of intellection, it is not surprising that in many languages the verb meaning "to see" is related to a verb meaning "to seem" in its sense of "to be perceived as". But in many cases the subject of the equivalent of "seems" is some kind of stimulus providing visual information. In other cases the subject simply fulfils syntactic and information structure requirements and is non- thematic, and hence the structure is that of a raising construction.
Miriam Butt has contributed a paper entitled "A Re- examination of the Accusative to Ergative Shift in Indo- Aryan". She undertakes a re-examination of the purported development of a split ergative system in Urdu/Hindi from an accusative system in Sanskrit. This shift is generally taken to be connected to a passive structure that is interpreted as active. A closer look at the historical facts reveals that some of the essential ingredients cannot be substantiated. The paper collects the problems with the hypothesis of a case system shift for Indo-Iran in a coherent package while adding further findings. The hypothesis that instrumental -ina was the direct ancestor of the ergative "ne" has been shown to be questionable. An alternative hypothesis is that the ergative is a calque from a dative form that was used either in a dialect of Hindi or in a neighbouring related language. The alternative hypothesis put forward by Butt is that Urdu/Hindi represents a continuation of a system of case marking which employed a rich variety of non-nominative subject marking, but whose structural alignment is underlyingly accusative: subjects group together vs. objects with regard to a number of syntactic properties. She hypothesises that many of the modern case markers were drawn from a set of postpositions and that they gradually took over the functions of case markers as the Sanskrit inflectional case marking collapsed.
In "Representation and Variation: On the Development of Romance Auxiliary Syntax" Christoph Schwarze endeavours to expound on how to construct the model of linguistic competence so as to encompass historical change and that this is not achieved simply by attributing change to the conditions under which children acquire language. He starts with general assumptions about linguistic change. If there are no parameters, but only lexically encoded instantiations of Universal Grammar, syntactic change is also lexical change, and there is no reason to exclude the possibility that the variations from which language change originates can occur at any stage of an individual's life. Language change can then be defined as diachronic variation of the mentallexicon, socially shared through communication. Schwarze argues that LFG makes it possible to describe abstract grammatical information, such as tense, regardless of whether that information is expressed by morphology or syntax. This is regarded as an advantage for the analysis of the rise of Romance compound tenses and periphrastic passives, which is a process in which morphology is replaced by syntax. Schwarze first characterises the current states of the auxiliaries in Spanish, Italian and French, thereafter he sketches the developments that have led to these states. The emergence of the Romance auxiliary syntax in a period of orality is paramount to changes of lexically encoded properties of those Latin verbs which were to become Romance auxiliaries and of the Latin past passive and deponent participles. Of the two types of variation discussed in this study, local variation is more responsible for innovations, while global variation accounts for the further fate of innovations. Finally, Schwarze points out that global structures vary under the influence of conflicting principles of learnability.
In "Preferred Word Order and the Grammaticalization of Associated Path", Jane Simpson studies the apparent paradox of some Australian languages that they have free word order, and yet they have rich morphological structure which shows evidence of grammaticalisation, that is, of bound morphemes which appear historically to have been free words. She first illustrates the cline of grammaticalisation of associated path in morphology, Then she describes a synchronic participle-verb sequence which provides a model for the move from phrase sequence towards word. Her focus is on the path that leads to grammaticalisation, and in particular the "point of shift" where syntactic re-analysis takes place.
In the final paper Ida Toivonen discusses "Language Change, Lexical Features and Finnish Possessors". The data considered comes from the Finnish possessive system, which involves both independent pronouns and bound affixes which interact in a complex manner. Morphosyntactic change is described with reference to lexical features. She wants t demonstrate that the formal framework of Lexical-Functional Grammar provides all the necessary tools. Exploring the origin of the lexical split, she shows how the present lexical analysis can help us understand the evolution of the modern system. Further changes that have occurred in various Finnish dialects can easily be captured with lexical features.
Critical evaluation The contributions of this book have shown that LFG can accommodate both sudden and gradual syntactic change. They explain changes as the result of a re-analysis of grammatical relations and offer new insight into this process. The language phenomena chosen in the book represent fundamental changes in the syntax of languages, and for this reason, may not be representative for language change as a whole. The authors of this volume remain convinced that modern linguistics, with its focus on structural data and on an underlying cognitive conception of competence, has achieved genuine scientific progress, and that it is possible to integrate issues that were central in the nineteenth century. The book is interesting for everyone who works on language change and grammaticalisation. The focus on LFG is not as prominent in all the contributions as one might expect it to be, but the different approaches are presented in a convincing way. There are several unfortunate typing errors, especially in the introductory paper and in the numbering of the sections of the last one. Altogether, the volume shows that a detailed and specific theory of the lexicon can be useful for understanding morphosyntactic change.
References Anderson, Stephen. 2000. Towards an Optimal Account of Second Position. In: Optimality Theory: Phonology, Syntax and Acquisition. Ed. Joost Dekkers, Frank van der Leeuw and Jeroen van de Weijer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 302-333. Bresnan, Joan. 2001. Lexical Functional Syntax. Oxford: Blackwell. Butt, Miriam and Tracy Holloway King. 2002. The Proceedings of the LFG '02 Conference. National Technical University of Athens. CSLI Publications. http://cslipublications.stanford.edu/LFG/7/lfg02.html Bybee, Joan, Revere Perkins, and William Pagliuca. 1994. The Evolution of Grammar, Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. Lightfoot, David. 1991. How to Set Parameters. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. Lightfoot, David. 1999. The Development of Language. Acquisition, Change, and Evolution. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell. Newmeyer, Frederick. 1008. Language Form and Language Function. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. Newmeyer, Frederick. 2001. Deconstructing Grammaticalization. In: Language Sciences 23: 187-229.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Gerda Hassler is a professor of linguistics in the Department of Romance Languages of the University of Potsdam. Her main areas of research interests include syntax, semantics, and the history of linguistics.