LINGUIST List 23.5258

Fri Dec 14 2012

Review: Historical Linguistics: Van Kemenade & de Haas (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 14-Dec-2012
From: Theodore Stern <>
Subject: Historical Linguistics 2009
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EDITORS: van Kemenade, Ans and de Haas, NynkeTITLE: Historical Linguistics 2009SUBTITLE: Selected Papers from the 19th International Conference on HistoricalLinguistics, Nijmegen, 10-14 August 2009SERIES TITLE: Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 320PUBLISHER: John BenjaminsYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Theodore Stern, Département de Linguistique et Traduction, l’Université de Montréal

SUMMARYThis volume is a selection of papers originally presented at the 19thInternational Conference on Historical Linguistics (ICHL), held at Nijmegen,the Netherlands 10-14 August, 2009. The book reflects the diversity of activeresearch agendas in contemporary historical linguistics. The majority of the19 contributions focus on issues concerning diachronic syntax, within whichdiachronic developments, active changes and sociolinguistic variation, andhistorical reconstruction are all well represented.

Accordingly, the theoretical and analytical approaches are varied and reflectthe authors’ preferences coupled with supporting arguments for the adequacy ofthe analytical tools used. The volume also treats a wide variety of languages;the majority are European languages (or varieties with European roots), withan important amount of ink devoted to Netherlandic (Dutch, Frisian, andAfrikaans), extinct languages are also well represented (especially Latin) butalso 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’sCycle (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 becomeobligatory (cf. standard French je ne suis pas); stage III), then followed bysubsequent weakening and optionality of the original stage I negative element(cf. spoken French je (ne) sais pas, stage IV), with eventual disappearance ofthe original negative element (cf. Haitian Creole se pa, stage V). Drawingfrom her own previous work on Modern Spoken Afrikaans (MSA; Biberauer 2008,2009) and previous work on Brazilian Portuguese (BP; Schwegler 1991, Schwenter2005) suggests that JC deserves reanalysis in light of advances in syntacticanalysis (within a minimalist framework). Biberauer demonstrates that theoriginal negative element in both these languages is robust and not subject toweakening, whilst the second negative element shows no signs of developingprominence. She argues that JC cannot be maintained as a universal withoutfurther analysis of the syntactic positions which the negative elementsoccupy, positing that MSA and BP should not further advance in JC due to thesecond negative element occupying a higher position in the syntactic structurethan 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 wellas possible solutions for the reconstruction of Late Proto-Indo-European (PIE)argument structure and the phraseology of constructions in which thegrammatical subject is the experiencer of the predicate. Drawing from acrossIndo-European, Bubenik gives a portrait of the types of verbs susceptible totake an experiencer as subject. He isolates different predicate types: verbsof cognition and perception, verbs denoting changes in bodily states, as wellas certain verbs of modality. He further argues that only through a“cognitive” analysis can these verb types attain a unitary typology, becauseformal syntax offers no way to group such verb types into a non-arbitrarytypology.

In “Criteria for differentiating inherent and contact-induced changes inlinguistic reconstruction”, Jadranka Gvozdanović discusses the types ofevidence that can be used to determine the origins and push factorsresponsible for linguistic change. Discussing Slavic accent shifts (Dybo’s Lawand Stang’s Law), Gvozdanović exposes the intricate details of these stressshifts. Using Proto-Slavic reconstructions, knowledge of sociolinguisticconditions in mediaeval Eastern Europe, and reconstructions of intermediarystages of languages historically in contact with Slavic, she clearlydistinguishes between aspects of phonological change which can be shown to beextensions of pre-existing structures and those which can be shown to be arealfeatures introduced through language contact.

In “Misparsing and syntactic reanalysis”, John Whitman presents argumentsagainst syntactic misparsing as a primary source of linguistic change, byreanalyzing previously established genuine cases of misparsing. SOV word orderin Niger-Congo, claimed by Hyman (1975) to be genuine misparsing, isdemonstrated to reflect a change in category features of lexical items and notof constituency. He analyzes “have” perfects (English: I have written) asgrammaticalization of a full verb as an auxiliary. (The same issue is taken upby Hertzenberg later in the volume.) Similar category feature changes areargued for in the development of Chinese bǎ and relabeling for Englishconstructions where “for” introduces an imbedded CP. He accepts certain ofHaspelmath’s 1998 misparsing and “rebracketing” examples as valid, notablyFrench 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 linguisticchange through his “Conservancy of Structure Hypothesis” , where categoryfeatures and the level of projection of features may change as long asc-command relations are maintained. This would penalize changes inconstituency where c-command relations would be destroyed. He thus rejectsthat misparsing is as active in syntax as in phonology, where he accepts thatit 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 isrepresented and explain within the “radial set” model (Lakoff 1987). Theyexplain the concept of prototype with the theoretical model used and presentexamples of how phonological segments, lexical items, and mood and aspectconfigurations are permeable over time in accordance with the idea that anon-central analogous member of a set may become the central or prototypicalmember.

In “The syntactic reconstruction of alignment and word order: the case of OldJapanese”, Yuko Yanagida focuses on a feature of Old Japanese that has provendifficult in earlier research: a split alignment pattern in which main clausesand nominalized clauses are nominative-accusative and actively aligned,respectively. Yanagida shows that although such a morphosyntactic alignmentpattern appears typologically rare, it in fact can be shown to have parallelswith more widely attested types. After presenting the relative facts in OldJapanese texts, Yanagida shows that through reconstructed Proto-Carib andexamples from Khoisan languages, Yanagida shows that active alignment innominalized clauses is not restricted to Japanese but has parallels inProto-Carib and languages of the KhoiSan family.

In “The Dutch-Afrikaans participial prefixe ge-: A case ofdegrammaticalization?”, C. Jac Conradie discusses the differences in usage ofthe past participle marker ge- between Dutch, Standard Afrikaans, and OrangeRiver (Griekwa) Afrikaans. He concludes that ge- in Afrikaans has beenpartially degrammaticalized and is not optional for some speakers. Further, inGriekwa, he posits that ge- (ga-, in this dialect) may well be on its way tobecoming 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”, JackHoeksema and Ankelien Schippers present a quantitative, corpus-based accountof changes involving wh-movement, wh-islands, and other movement or extractionof subordinate clauses in Dutch. They show that over time Dutch has greatlyreduced the frequency of such constructions, except for the resumptiveprolepsis construction which has gained favour in speech. Ultimately, theyargue that their results are potentially problematic to the unification ofwh-movement into a single process (A-bar movement), as this neutralizes thedistinction between different long-distance movements in Dutch. In unifyingthe processes, they argue, there is no explication as to why most movementprocesses have become rare whilst resumptive prolepsis has gained muchpopularity in the last 100 years.

In “OV and V-to-I in history of Swedish”, Erik Magnusson Petzell conducts acorpus-based analysis of the frequency of OV constructions and V-to-I movementin Swedish. OV, being ungrammatical in Old Swedish, is argued to have beenderived by synchronically active moment operations. Even though OV and V-to-Iare shown to be unrelated, Petzell uses arguments from language acquisition toshow that the two phenomena can be shown to be cognitively related andrecoverable from acquisition research.

In “Ethnicity as an indepent factor in language variation across space: Trendsin morphosyntactic patterns in spoken Afrikaans”, Gerard Stell gives amultivariate analysis of different morphosyntactic variables in Afrikaans toinvestigate whether the traditional classification of Afrikaans into “White”and “Coloured” varieties is still valid.. He is particularly interested in thegeographic stability of such constructs and the parallel between Afrikaans andEnglish in the United States, where a distinct variety, African AmericanVernacular English, has been shown to be not only racially based but alsounstable geographically. He shows a general convergence of all varietiestowards Standard Afrikaans, a construct which is shown to be typologicallysimilar to the standard speech of Transvaal whites.

In “The morphological evolution of infinitive, future and conditional forms inOccitan”, Louise Esher argues that the Romance stem used in future andconditional verb tenses is a morphome (Aronoff 1994), a morphological constantwhich does not have any inherent semantic value in of itself. The future andconditional morphome in Occitan, however, is one of Aronoff’s “intermediate”cases, in that split paradigms exist in which the future and conditional donot share a form, but each form does share a shape with another form in theverbal paradigm.

EVALUATIONBiberauer presents excellent arguments for questioning a longheld universal,and does show the crucial need for contemporary reanalysis of previouslyestablished axioms. Importantly, she shows through thorough analysis ofnegation phenomena in MSA and BP that not all negative concord systems are onequal footing.

While the analysis does highlight the relevant phenomena, Biberauer draws noconclusions as how to MSA’s and BP’s second negative element should beanalyzed, she does nonetheless offer the suggestion that “[the second negativeelement]’s high left-peripheral position MAY in fact be head of a PolarityPhrase” (Biberauer, 2009; emphasis mine). We should hope in the feature thatthis is confirmed, or that another analysis is available.

Bubenik’s non-formalist cognitive approach to verbal semantics lends itself toa readable scholarly piece which should be accessible to both historicallinguists as well as classically trained philologists working outside of agenerative-grammar paradigm. The pre-theoretical description he provides notonly is a stand-alone analysis of change in Indo-European argument structure,but equally lends itself to reinterpretation through more formal theoreticalframeworks. This article should appeal to researchers in PIE studies, thoseinterested in argument structure, linguistic reconstruction and alternativeapproaches to syntax.

Gvozdanović approach to the analysis of linguistic change, which blends formalmethods of linguistic reconstruction with no less emphasis on sociolinguisticfactors, is well worth the read for both formalists and functionalists alike.Not only does she convincingly bind together various historical andsociolinguistic factors at play in the stress shifts she examines, but herthorough knowledge of prosodic structures allows her to determine whichchanges are the product of pre-existing unstable prosodic conditionssusceptible to reinterpretation. Her novel approach is a boon for contemporaryhistorical linguistics: the marriage of Slavic philology with modern advancesin the understanding of suprasegmental structure. The article will be ofinterest to not only Slavic philologists and historical linguists, but also tosynchronic prosodic phonologists.

Whitman’s evidence is solid and his analyses are sound, making thiscontribution a worthwhile read for those working in syntax who take previousanalyses at face value. However, as Whitman’s “Conservancy of StructureHypothesis” 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 Frenchexample, should arise. His hypothesis is only briefly supported by anecdotalevidence, without data from language acquisition, for as he readily admits “weknow that in normal syntactic processing hearers commit bracketing errors”. Sowhile the argument is interesting, the hypothesis needs further formalsupport.

Winter and Nathan present the general axioms of Cognitive Linguistics forthose with no previous exposure to the theory, and the brief but relativelycomplete overview is admirable. The relative newness of the model requiresthat the article is broad in its scope. Without a focus on a single historicalissue, one hopes that the authors’ broad theoretical framework can be appliedto specific linguistics issues in the future.

Yanagida is convincing in demonstrating how Old Japanese’scross-linguistically morpho=syntactic alignment pattern is less marked thanmight be assumed. This is very much a specialist article, as the distinctmorphosyntactic alignment of Old Japanese would not generally be otherwiseencountered. And although some of the arguments are convincing, one may stillremain skeptical of the pertinence of the observations regarding similaritiesbetween Old Japanese and Proto-Carib. The reader must ask to what point theunderstudied reconstruction of Proto-Carib can be accepted as valid. If all ofthe 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 writtencorpus and thus may not reflect the diachronic status of the spoken languageat the time period in question. Their remarks regarding the impact of theirfindings on the A-bar movement hypothesis remains speculative. I will beinterested to see in future analyses of their data if A-bar movement requiresreanalysis. If so, this contribution has the potential to become an importantpiece in not only Dutch historical syntax, but also in contemporary syntactictheory. 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 hissociolinguistic experiments on Afrikaans, based on Labov and Harris (1986)gives a good overall picture of the current state of affairs. Stell arguesthat the “in-group” elicitation process proves very useful in getting accuratedata. Despite the introductory remarks regarding the parallels in the line ofenquiry between his Afrikaans experiments and those previously undertaken inUnited States English, Stell gives only passing remarks on the conclusions tobe drawn when both Afrikaans and English data are taken into consideration,thus missing an opportunity to posit certain sociolinguistic patterns whichcan be found cross-linguistically.

What is extremely interesting about Esher’s contribution is her acceptance ofmultiple layers of analysis which may contribute to the notion of “morphone”.In recognizing that analysis of the conditional and future in Occitan cannotbe conducted “solely in phonological, syntactic, or semantic terms”, shepresents not only an interesting interface but also reasons forre-investigating the place of morphology within grammar..

Overall, the volume contains some interesting contributions.. The diversity ofanalyses 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 similardiachronic phenomena in different theoretical frameworks. Synchronic theoristswould benefit by examining the analyses presented; several present extremelyconvincing analyses with synchronic implications (Biberauer, Whitman, Petzell,Cormany).The volume, which collects novel approaches to historical linguistic analysis,is excellent intermediate to advanced reading for those working or studying inhistorical linguistics and/or formal linguistic theory. As the conferenceitself took place in 2009, many of the authors have presented their workelsewhere in the meantime; some of the entries might thus be less completethan more recent publications.

The collection is polyvalent in the sense that some of the contributionsaddress broad issues while focusing on specific issues. Others are onlyfocused on language-specific phenomena. On the one hand, even though most ofthe contributions focus on issues in Indo-Euroopean languages, historicallinguists working outside of the IE family will nonetheless find applicationsof modern techniques to reconstruction and the analysis of language change;the merits of the volume are not restricted in this respect. On the otherhand, many of the chapters not summarized here are primarily addressed toscholars working with specific languages and language families.

REFERENCESAronoff, Mark. 1994. Morphology by Itself: Stems and Inflectional Classes.Cambridge: MIT Press.

Biberauer, Theresa. 2008. Doubling and omission: insights from Afrikaansnegation. In Sjef Barbiers, Olaf Koeneman, Markia Lekakou and Margreet van derHam (eds.). Microvariations in Syntactic Doubling. 103-140. Bingley: Emerald.

Biberauer, Theresa. 2009. Jespersen off course? The case of contemporaryAfrikaans negation. In Elly van Gelderen (ed.). Linguistic Cycles.91-130.Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Biberauer, Theresa and Cyrino, Sonia. 2009. Negative developments in Afrikaansand Brazilian Portuguese. Ms. University of Cambridge/Stellenbosch University& Universidade de Campinas.

Haspelmath, Martin. 1998. Does Grammaticalization Need Reanalysis? Studies inLanguage 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:Academic Press.

Labov, W. and Harris, W.A. 1986. De Facto Segregation of Black and WhiteVernaculars. In D. Sankoff (ed.). Diversity and Diachrony. 1-24. Amsterdam:John Benjamins.

Lakoff, George. 1987. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Tellus about the Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Norde, Muriel. 2009. Degrammaticalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schwegler, Armin. 1991. Predicate negation in contemporary BrazilianPortuguese: 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 REVIEWERTheodore Stern is a second year Master’s research student at the Université deMontréal. Currently writing a master’s thesis on the breaking diphthongs ofModern Transvaal Afrikaans, he is interested in phonology (Government, ElementTheory, OT, prosodic and metrical); the Germanic languages (especiallyAfrikaans, Dutch and English), the Romance languages. He hopes to do a PhD inthe cognitive reality of speech segments and its implications for formaltheory.

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