LINGUIST List 13.2236

Sat Sep 7 2002

Review: Typology: Wischer & Diewald, eds. (2002)

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  • Yura Lander, Wischer & Diewald, eds. (2002), New Reflections on Grammaticalization

    Message 1: Wischer & Diewald, eds. (2002), New Reflections on Grammaticalization

    Date: Fri, 06 Sep 2002 16:31:57 +0000
    From: Yura Lander <>
    Subject: Wischer & Diewald, eds. (2002), New Reflections on Grammaticalization

    Wischer, Ilse and Gabriele Diewald, eds. (2002) New Reflections on Grammaticalization, John Benjamins, xiv+437 pp., Typological Studies in Language 49.

    Book Announcement on Linguist:

    Yury A. Lander, Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow

    Grammaticalization is a popular topic in current linguistic investigations, and the volumes published by John Benjamins do not play a secondary role here. Thus, one can consider the volume reviewed here to be a sequel of such collections as Traugott & Heine (eds.) 1991; Pagliuca (ed.) 1994; Giacalone Ramat & Hopper (eds.) 1998b.

    At the same time, the debates about grammaticalization obviously have reached a new stage - where (i) the very process of grammaticalization does not seem to be so primitively uncontroversial; (ii) new data concerning the grammatical development may revise some of the well-established theses of the grammaticalization theory; (iii) the need to include grammaticalization into the more broad theoretical picture has become apparent (cf. Giacalone Ramat & Hopper (1998a: 1) on the "growing reflexive interest in integrating grammaticalization with theoretical work in descriptive and historical linguistics").

    All this is well reflected in "New Reflections on Grammaticalization", which grew out of an international symposium of the same name held at Potsdam University in 1999. The book consists of an introduction outlining the main topics to be discussed, 24 papers, an appendix containing bibliographical data of papers presented in the symposium but published elsewhere, and a subject index.


    The body of the volume begins with Christian Lehmann's seminal paper "New reflections on grammaticalization and lexicalization" (pp. 1-18), which discusses the previously postulated opposition between the two processes included in the title in light of the contrast between analytic (roughly, constructing) and holistic (roughly, fixing) approaches to linguistic items. Lehmann argues that lexicalization is a result of a holistic approach whereby a sign is inventorized, while grammaticalization is simply a sign's acquiring "functions in the analytical formation of more comprehensive signs". The two processes are therefore cannot be opposed to each other, the more so that grammaticalization can involve lexicalization. Importantly, according to this view, one should not merge degrammaticalization and lexicalization.

    Although following Lehmann's paper in order, "More thoughts on degrammaticalization" by Johan van der Auwera (pp. 19-29) does not follow it in its basic theses. Here "lexicalization is the making of a lexical item out of something other than a lexical item" (p. 21); hence, this notion has an "extensional" overlap with "degrammaticalization", of which a particular case is "the undoing of a grammatical formative into something other than a grammatical formative" (ibid.), e.g., into a separate lexeme. This view allows, however, to separate a "narrow concept of degrammaticalization" (with grammatical formatives undoing into grammatical formatives "with a weaker degree of grammatical function" (ibid.)) from a "wide concept" which includes cases of lexicalization. In addition, van der Auwera touches upon some possible directions for the research of degrammaticalization.

    Jurgen Klausenburger ("Grammaticalization within a theory of morphocentricity"; pp. 31-43) proposes a theoretical scheme for accounting for various changes occurring between the domains of syntax, morphology and phonology from the position, according to which it is the morphology that constitutes the nuclear of universal grammar. After illustrating (with the data of Romance languages) the "morpho-centripetal" processes of "de-syntacticization" (which is equal for him to "grammaticalization") and "de- phonologization" and suggesting alternative analyses for a few cases usually thought as reversal processes, Klausenburger argues that most of what he discusses should be thought as instances of "the removal of characteristics". This concerns in fact mainly the issue of unidirectionality of grammatical change from less to more grammatical forms, which - as Klausenburger declares - "has been rendered moot" (p. 41).

    The debates about unidirectionality also serve as a background for Muriel Norde's "The final stages of grammaticalization: Affixhood and beyond" (pp. 45- 65), which is devoted to the functional reduction and/or change of function ("exaptation") of several affixes in Swedish. It is shown that although a number of such changes could be analyzed as violations of the unidirectionality principle (providing the cases of the development, say, from inflection to derivation), they need a further analysis which should take into account the overall diachronic changes in a language (such as the loss of case as an inflectional category in Swedish).

    A similar point is given by Aydan Doyle in his "Yesterday's affixes as today's clitics: A case study in degrammaticalization" (pp. 67-81), who discusses the evolution of Conomara Irish subject clitics from Early Modern Irish agreement affixes and relates it to the resetting of syntactic parameters (although unlike Norde, in the generative sense) as well as to the phonological change.

    Bernd Heine ("On the role of context in grammaticalization"; pp. 83-101) deals with the problem of how a grammatical item comes to "create" new (target) meanings from "original" (source) meanings. Heine describes this process as a series of stages whereby the use of a given grammatical item extends, first, to linguistic contexts where the target meaning is implicated, second to contexts where the source meaning is canceled; the last stage includes conventionalization of the target meaning. Such a representation makes it possible to build a typology of languages based on "how far" a concrete grammaticalization path is passed.

    The interrelations between grammaticalization and linguistic contexts are further discussed in Gabriele Diewald's paper "A model for relevant types of contexts in grammaticalization" (pp. 103-120). While using the development of the German modals as a primary illustration, Diewald singles out a few stages of a grammatical change which are very similar to those suggested by Heine, but which include also the initial expansion of a linguistic item to some untypical contexts. Further, as Diewald emphasizes, not only the source meaning is responsible for a given diachronic development, but also changes of the "older" lexical meaning on a par with restructuring of entire grammatical subsystems.

    Soteria Svorou ("Semantic constraints in the grammaticalization of locative constructions"; pp. 121-142) is also concerned with the dependence of grammaticalization on the source - but from a different perspective. In particular, several locative constructions are compared, and it is argued that some of them are more likely to show advanced grammaticalization (that is, "morphophonological reduction, loss of autonomy, loss of obligatory marking, and [semantic - YL] schematization" (p. 120)) than others.

    As one can see from the very title of Gunter Lorenz's "REALLY WORTHWILE or NOT REALLY SIGNIFICANT? A corpus-based approach to the delexicalization and grammaticalization of intensifiers in Modern English" (pp. 143-161), this study deals with English adjective intensification constructions, among which several types are distinguished. Lorenz demonstrates that intensifiers of some three types - namely COMPARATIVE (e.g., 'extraordinary'), EVALUATIVE (such as 'horribly') and MODAL (like 'certainly') - can and do develop in English into the most unmarked SCALAR intensifiers, while loosing their original meaning and increasing in possible collocations. Finally, the development of the intensifier 'really' to a "fully grammaticalized adjective intensifier" (like 'very') is discussed in details.

    Gerda Hassler's "Crosslinguistic and diachronic remarks on the grammaticalization of aspect in Romance languages: Location and motion verbs" (pp. 163-179) deals with the expression of aspect by means of periphrastic constructions including special forms of locative and motion verbs of several types. A few arguments are given for different degrees of grammaticalization of these constructions, and this is related to other functions of auxiliaries.

    The close topic is touched upon by Philippe Bourdin ("The grammaticalization of deictic directionals into modulators of temporal distance"; pp. 181-199), who observes the diversity of "logics" governing the development of ventive ('come') and itive ('go') markers into the markers of "interval contraction" and/or "interval expansion". This diversity, he argues, makes it rather difficult to establish UNIVERSAL grammaticalization paths, the more so that in many cases it is even more reliable to speak about some "notional ambivalence" rather than about grammaticalization.

    The central claim of Concepcion Company Company's paper "Grammaticalization and category weakness" (pp. 201-215) is that grammaticalization is based on the prototypicality of the human language categories in that it "advances from the margins towards the focal zone of the category" (p. 212), although not obligatory reaching the latter. This idea is illustrated with the expansion of overt direct-object marking in Spanish.

    Carol Lord, Foong Ha Yap and Shoichi Iwasaki in their "Grammaticalization of 'give': African and Asian perspectives" (pp. 217-235) discuss evolution of the verb 'give' (with the particular attention to serial verb constructions). A few grammaticalization paths are established, which include not only the well- known development of 'give' morphemes into benefactive or permissive markers, but also the subsequent grammaticalization into markers of causative, reason, and some other categories.

    Marianne Mithun's "An invisible hand at the root of causation: The role of lexicalization in the grammaticalization of causatives" (pp. 237-257) is concerned with the grammaticalization of causative markers from body-part morphemes in languages of North America. The point is that such a path required lexicalization of noun-verb complexes, providing a possibility for the reanalysis of "original nouns" into means/manner prefixes and then, to causative markers.

    Colette Grinevald ("Making sense of nominal classification systems: Noun classifiers and the grammaticalization variable"; pp. 259-275) takes up the degree of grammaticalization of "noun classifiers" (as opposed to, say, numeral classifiers or genitive classifiers). It turns out that although there are a number of different phenomena which are sometimes covered by this term, they can be represented as occupying different places on some "grammaticalization axis", so that this parameter should always be in mind when one compares nominal classification systems.

    "Phono-syntactic conspiracy and beyond: Grammaticalization in spoken Beijing Mandarin" (pp. 277-292) by Liang Tao provides a detailed description of the arising of a new pattern in Beijing Mandarin Chinese, where the numeral 'one', which turns out to be able to be used without a numeral classifier (contrary to grammatical norms), nevertheless retains some phonological traces of this classifier. It is emphasized that this pattern became possible due to the chunking of the sequence of the numeral and a certain classifier.

    Taru Salminen's "Retention of abstract meaning: The essive case and grammaticalization of polyphony in Finnish" (pp. 293-307) discusses the so-called "quasi-construction" in Finnish and its semantic relation to one of its original components, namely the essive case marker. In common with some of Lehmann's ideas, the importance of the grammaticalization of a construction is underlined.

    Sung-Ock S. Sohn ("The grammaticalization of honorific particles in Korean"; pp. 309-325) investigates the origin of the subject and dative honorifics in Korean relating them to some locational noun in support to the localist hypothesis.

    The paper "From logophoric pronoun to discourse particle: A case study of Finnish and Saami" (pp. 327-344) by Lea Laitinen opens the "discourse markers" part of the volume. This paper is an attempt to trace the history of the items 'hAn' and 'sun' in Finnish and Saami correspondingly and to find the contexts where these items could turn into discourse particles as well as preconditions for such an evolution.

    Dagmar Barth-Weingarten and Elizabeth Couper-Kuhlen in their "On the development of final THOUGH: A case of grammaticalization?" (pp. 345-361) discuss the functioning of 'though' in (seemingly American) English as a concessive marker and as a discourse marker and give an analysis of the development of the latter function from the former. In respect to certain properties of this development, the authors notice that it can be classified as an instance of grammaticalization only if the very notion of grammaticalization is considered to be organized prototypically, so that the evolution of 'though' (as well as of some other discourse markers) should be "related to more prototypical cases of grammaticalization in terms of family resemblance" (p. 357).

    The paper "Grammaticalization, subjectification and the origin of phatic markers" (pp. 363-378) by Jose Pinto de Lima explores the genealogy of phatic markers by the example of Portuguese 'pois', which passed a long way from a temporal conjunction to a particle with a "metacommunicative" function. After this case study, other possible sources for phatic markers are briefly touched.

    Heide Wegener's paper "The evolution of the German modal particle DENN" (pp. 379-394) deals with a similar grammaticalization story of a discourse marker 'denn', which presumably developed from a deictic morpheme through the stages of being a temporal and causative adverb.

    The collection ends with two theoretical papers. The first is Wallace Chafe's "Putting grammaticalization in its place" (pp. 395-412), which contains a model for human language description based on the existence of a "grammatical structuring" level on a par with the "semantic structuring" level. Chafe argues that it is the existence of this level that is responsible for the grammaticalization where the meaning is built from certain "quasi-meanings" (the idea that brings grammaticalization together with idiomaticization).

    The last paper is "Grammaticalization as an analogue of hypothetico-deductive thinking" (pp. 413-422) by Esa Itkonen. In this paper, the author tries to give a general picture of grammaticalization as a process based on the abduction (instantiated in reanalysis) and rationality (reflected in extension).


    The collection of papers presented in "New Reflections on Grammaticalization" is certainly outstanding in that it incorporates much theoretical and empirical work, both providing a large amount of non-trivial data and outlining directions for future research. Since this volume is a result of a symposium, its authors should not be in agreement nor should their work be closely related. This allows a reader to find a variety of observations which in some sense, complement each other not only in supporting one or other idea, but also in forming a notion of the wide range of phenomena covered under the label 'grammaticalization' and their possible influence on theories. In connection with this, I should commend the editor's achievements especially in that how all these quite different papers are ordered making the impression of a continuum of topics.

    This diversity seems to have a seamy side, however. Perhaps, one possible reason of why so many different facts are accounted under the rubric of grammaticalization is that this very notion is somewhat amorphous. Grammaticalization is usually understood in two ways. The first is the unifying of various processes on the basis of some of their observable characteristics such as phonological reduction, increase in frequency etc. The second approach (close to what is advocated, for example, by Bybee as well as by most theorists participated in the volume under discussion) postulates the existence of grammatical meanings (and/or functions) with the origin and evolution of their expressions being the main topic of the grammaticalization theory. Although these two understandings are certainly related, there is no perfect motivation for equating them, since (i) there are examples of phonological reduction and increase in frequency, which cannot be considered instances of grammaticalization (e.g., the use of the formant 'soc-' < 'socialisticheskij' 'socialistic' in the Soviet Russian speech), (ii) in many cases what is thought to be a grammatical meaning can be used lexically (cp. 'most' and 'majority' in English; see von Fintel 1995 for a discussion).

    Evidently, in light of that we cannot identify the two approaches, it may well be that no serious theoretical account of grammaticalization is possible until some definite criteria of what belongs (or is likely to belong) to the domain of grammar are obtained. Thus, for example, why should we consider the development of evaluative intensifiers into scalar ones (Lorenz's paper) or the rise of discourse markers to be (or not to be) instances of grammaticalization if we are not sure that 'very' or 'though' are grammatical formants? Barth-Weingarten and Couper-Kuhlen suggest that we can think of the development of 'though' as about non-prototypical grammaticalization - but does this mean that 'though' is a NON-PROTOTYPICAL GRAMMATICAL ITEM?

    Maybe, the problem is in that not only grammaticalization may (and must) affect linguistic theories but also theoretical conceptions and models may affect our understanding of the grammatical change. This is an apparent motivation of problems in defining grammaticalization, but the same goes also with the interpretation of data. Consider, for example, the former masculine singular nominative adjective inflection -e in Swedish. As Norde puts it, "it would be incorrect to say that Modern Swedish -e is the same morpheme as Old Swedish -e, since it no longer expresses nominative case, yet it continues to denote masculine gender" (p. 52), hence this change is classified as "functional reduction". Note, however, that if we accept the view according to which the nominative is the UNMARKED case, the data may be interpreted as 'nothing has happened', since although the Swedish case system has been lost, the unmarked masculine form remained the unmarked masculine form (and indeed, it would be quite surprising to see, say, a descendant of the oblique form instead of -e).

    With this interdependence of theories and facts in mind, let me turn to some more concrete problems touched in the volume.

    The idea of DEGRAMMATICALIZATION (concerned in the papers by Lehmann, van der Auwera, Klausenburger, Norde, and Doyle) as a process reversal to grammaticalization brings us to the same problems as those discussed above. Nevertheless, even if the existence of degrammaticalization is taken for granted (as van der Auwera does), it is almost certainly a marked process, so that the grammaticalization theorist should take into account that since it is NOT NATURAL for anything (?) to degrammaticalize, special factors are required for stimulating such a grammatical change. This makes me doubt that degrammaticalization can be viewed as something uniform (even if grammaticalization is such; cf. Traugott 2001).

    That what happens usually is GRAMMATICALIZATION OF A CONSTRUCTION rather than that of a single word/morpheme has become an important point in recent studies (e.g., Dahl 1998; Maisak 2002a; see also Maisak 2002b). This is also reflected in a number of papers of the volume reviewed here (see especially the contributions of Lehmann and Salminen). The idea is, of course, productive, and it is a common place of many papers that some cases of grammaticalization can be described only in this way. But Lehmann makes a stronger claim that "the grammaticalization of a construction does not entail the grammaticalization of any of its component elements" (p. 7). And further: "If there is an element that mediates the relation between the constituents of a construction, then grammaticalization of the construction will involve grammaticalization of this element. But if there is no such element present, grammaticalization may proceed, anyway" (ibid.) I believe that THIS is true, and indeed for a long time I thought that grammaticalization of a lexeme is simply restoration of compositionality. Thus, for example, in Modern Russian it is possible to say (1a) as well as (1b), although compositionally (1a) should be interpreted as a partitive 'three of these soldiers' (see Lander 2001 for substantiation of this point on the data of Austronesian languages):

    (1) a. dvoe etix soldat two these-Genitive soldiers-Genitive b. eti dvoe soldat these two soldiers-Genitive 'these two soldiers'

    What has happened here, I believe, is the grammaticalization of a CONSTRUCTION with numerals, which (i) made this construction conventionalized and uncompositional (in the sense of the Construction Grammar), (ii) put some constraints on the participants of the construction (e.g., that the head must be a numeral; therefore separating the category of numerals); (iii) while fixing the construction, weakened constraints on the position of demonstratives. What is important here is that the grammaticalization of a construction leads to the formation of grammatically relevant categories, and in some cases this may be a closed class. Now, when the compositionality recovers, this small class is recategorized and grammaticalized. Thus, we can have grammaticalization of a construction with or without (subsequent) grammaticalization of some of its components, and this goes in line with Lehmann's argumentation. But... there ARE cases where items are grammaticalized without linguistic constructions. Thus, I cannot imagine one concrete construction where, say, Indonesian 'sahaya' (meaning 'servant') has grammaticalized into 'saya' (meaning 'I'). So we also have grammaticalization of morphemes/words with or without grammaticalization of a construction. So neither the role of a construction nor the role of a word/morpheme should be overacted. But I think that this is in fact the beginning of the long way towards the well-established TYPOLOGY of grammaticalization.

    The CONTEXTS OF GRAMMATICALIZATION also received a considerable attention in the volume (see papers by Heine, Diewald, Sohn, Laitinen among some others). The basic idea is that some LINGUISTIC contexts may "trigger" grammaticalization of certain items, which are then, being already grammaticalized, can expand to other contexts, more prototypical for their original meaning (see Company's contribution). Now, in connection with the previous discussion, one may ask what are the relations between "constructions" and "contexts", and it is surprising that this question has not been asked in the volume. I believe, however, that these are simply different views (so for instance, a construction may be grammaticalized in a context or as a context). But even then, this cannot be the whole story, since as we have seen in the case of the grammaticalization of pronouns, there can be NO linguistic (vs. extralinguistic) contexts for grammaticalization, so again we see that the theories proposed work only for a part of data.

    Finally, one very interesting topic, which was, however, only briefly touched upon in a few papers, is PRECONDITIONS for a concrete grammatical change. Note that there is a more or less established idea that grammaticalization paths are universally accessible (as is reflected in the "cognitive" status of diachronic semantic maps; see van der Auwera & Plungian 1988; Haspelmath (forthc.) for discussion). A number of papers in the volume (including the contributions of Diewald, Laitinen, and some others) suggest, however, that a given development of a linguistic item may depend on the very structure of a language: thus, for example, the grammaticalization of the morphemes meaning 'hand' to causative markers described by Mithun would be hardly possible if North American languages were dependent-marking.

    As the very fact of having had the conference "New Reflections on Grammaticalization 2" at the University of Amsterdam (April 2002) shows, the grammaticalization theory (or theories?) is not futureless. And applying the principle of retention to the linguistic theory, obviously this volume already contain preconditions for future changes.


    Dahl, O. (1998) Grammaticalization and the life- cycles of constructions. Keynote lecture at the 17th Scandinavian Conference of Linguistics, August 20-22, 1998. [Available at:]

    Giacalone Ramat, A. & P.J. Hopper (eds.) (1998a) Introduction. In Giacalone Ramat & Hopper 1998b, 1- 11.

    Giacalone Ramat, A. & P.J. Hopper (eds.) (1998b) The Limits of Grammaticalization. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

    Haspelmath, M. (forthc.) The geometry of grammatical meaning: Semantic maps and cross-linguistic comparison. To appear in M. Tomasello (ed.), The New Psychology of Language, vol. 2, Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum. [Available at:]

    Lander, Yu.A. (2001) Austronesian partitives. In V.B. Kasevich (ed.), 6th International Conference on the Languages of Far East, South-East Asia and West Africa: Proceedings and Abstracts of Papers, St.Petersburg: SPbGU, 263-272.

    Maisak, T.A. (2002a) Tipologija grammatikalizacii konstrukcij s glagolami dvizhenija i glagolami pozicii. [Grammaticalization paths of motion and posture verbs.] Ph.D Dissertation, Moscow State University.

    Maisak, T.A. (2002b) Review of Heine, B. & T. Kuteva, World Lexicon of Grammaticalization. LINGUIST List 13.2166. []

    Pagliuca, W. (ed.) (1994) Perspectives on Grammaticalization. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

    Traugott, E.C. (2001) Legitimate counterexamples to unidirectionality. Paper presented at Freiburg University, October 12, 2001. [Available at]

    Traugott, E.C. & B. Heine (eds.) (1991) Approaches to Grammaticalization. 2 vols. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

    van der Auwera, J. & V. Plungian (1998) Modality's semantic map. Linguistic Typology 2.1: 79-124.

    von Fintel, K. (1995) The formal semantics of grammaticalization. In J.N. Beckman (ed.), Proceedings of NELS 25, vol. 2, Amherst: GLSA, 175- 189. [Available at:]


    Yury A. Lander is a research fellow in the Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow. His current interests include the typology of noun phrases, Austronesian, Australian and Slavic linguistics. i