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Review of  Grammatical Change

Reviewer: Anuradha Sudharsan
Book Title: Grammatical Change
Book Author: Rachel Hendery Jennifer Hendriks
Publisher: Pacific Linguistics
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Issue Number: 22.4651

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EDITORS:Hendery, Rachel and Hendriks, Jennifer
TITLE: Grammatical Change: Theory and Description
SERIES TITLE: Studies in Language Change 6
PUBLISHER: Pacific Linguistics, College of Asia and Pacific, Australian National
YEAR: 2010

Anuradha Sudharsan, Department of Linguistics & Contemporary English, The
English & Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India


This collection of papers came out of a workshop organized by the Centre for
Research on Language Change at the Australian National University, Australia.
The papers represent a range of issues related to grammatical change viewed from
different theoretical perspectives, from the functional, to structural, to
generative. The volume draws together different lines of enquiry by relating
grammatical change not only to morphology, phonology and semantics, but to
discourse and socio-cultural aspects of language as well. Another noteworthy
feature of these papers is that the data analysed is drawn from recorded texts
of different languages belonging to diverse language families. To begin, the
volume has an introduction by the editors which gives an overview of what each
paper is about.

The paper on substantival adjectives by Cynthia L. Allen, the first in the
series, considers the disappearance of substantival adjectives (i.e. adjectives
which can occur without a head noun) in modern English (MoE). In old English
(OE), however, adjectives showed agreement with their head noun, so this noun
didn’t have to be expressed. Allen challenges assumptions coming from a lack of
careful examination of attested data by saying that data she has gathered from
historical texts does not support the traditional view that morphological change
leads to syntactic change; nor does it give evidence for the prediction made by
the Principles and Parameter Theory (PPT), which states that once the features
that license a pro are lost, it is necessary to express the head noun. Allen
gives evidence from both “rich inflection” texts and texts without rich
inflection to show that substantival adjectives continued to occur in English
even after the loss of inflection. Interestingly, they occur in texts in which
the head noun is already expressed in an earlier sentence. She goes on to say
that the construction actually began to decline long before the change which is
supposed to have triggered its decline. She concludes by explaining that the
occurrence of substantival adjectives is determined by the type of texts,
discourse factors, etc.

In the paper on prenominal possessor doubling constructions (PPDCs) in West
Germanic, Jennifer Hendriks takes a stand similar to the one taken by Allen. She
shows that recorded data on PPDCs does not support the commonly held view that
PPDCs are a result of a two-stage process of grammaticalization, or that of
reanalysis and extension. PPDCs are generally considered to be the result of
reanalysis of clausal syntax into nominal syntax. Hendriks goes on to assert
that there is diachronic evidence for the existence of PPDCs even in the earlier
stages of German and Dutch and that they do not show any construction-specific
dative marking, which seems to give counterevidence for the reanalysis theory.
She concludes by saying that the development of PPDCs was by no means a single,
straightforward process, but rather involved a series of discontinuous,
sometimes unrelated, changes. All this seems to suggest that in investigating
grammaticalization, careful attention must be paid to dates, contexts, and other
details of the texts examined.

In her paper on the stative ‘have (got)’ in New Zealand English (NZE), Heidi
Quinn tries to account for the drastic increase in the occurrence of the stative
‘have’ with inalienable possessions. As in the previous papers, Quinn’s analysis
is based on attested evidence from modern corpora in the form of data collected
from the speech of NZE and from recorded utterances of early speakers of NZE.
She explains the occurrence of the stative ‘have’ with inalienable possessions
by saying that it has actually undergone a major syntactic reanalysis from an
auxiliary-like functional head to a lexical verb. The stative ‘have got’ is
actually an intermediate structure which arose when the auxiliary-like ‘have’
changed to become a lexical verb. Thus, when the lexical verb moves to predicate
head position, the copy trace left behind is pronounced as ‘got’. What this
study shows is that it is important to supplement and support any quantitative
analysis of change with qualitative syntactic analyses.

The paper on “Edge aligned syntactic reconstruction”, by Eric R. Round, too,
relates grammatical change to non-grammatical domains of language. Round gives a
totally different view of syntactic reconstruction by showing that there exists
a relationship between phonology and syntax which can be the basis for syntactic
reconstruction. Earlier traditional approaches viewed that phonetic change, and
phonetic reduction in particular, could lead to grammatical change. What is
novel about Round’s approach is that it shows that one could draw inferences
about pre- or protolanguage word order change from phonological reconstruction.
This is done by exploiting correspondences between phonological phrases (i.e.
minor intonation phrases) and syntactic phrases in order to reconstruct the
syntax of Tangkic.

Winnie Chor’s paper, which looks at the role of semantics in the
grammaticalization of three direction verbs in Cantonese, represents an
interface between grammatical and non-grammatical aspects of language in
grammatical change. Although these verbs are shown to follow certain pathways of
semantic change attested cross-linguistically, they, however, exhibit certain
unique characteristics depending on their original individual meanings. For
instance, a linear development is seen in the development of ‘gwo3’. The
particle comes to have an experiential sense via metaphorical extension and then
a “single-repetition”. In the case of ‘hei2’, besides metaphorical extension,
pragmatic factors played a crucial role in its development. Finally, drawing
upon Traugott’s (2003) account, she points out another tendency observed in
semantic change towards greater subjectivity, which involves “strengthening of
expression of speaker involvement” (p. 99). The particle ‘faan1’ shows this path
of development.

In her paper on grammaticalization of discourse particles into relative clauses,
Rachel Hendery reviews case studies made earlier of several genetically and
aerially unrelated languages such as Tocharian, Quechua, Georgian, and Basque
and shows that in all these languages discourse marking elements were
grammaticalized into relative clause markers. As in Allen’s account, this study
also emphasizes the importance of attested evidence. Hendery is of the view that
there must be some connection between discourse markers and relative clause
markers that can create “a likely pathway” (p. 116) of grammaticalization.
Relative clause markers in world languages invariably mark clause boundary and
anaphoricity. Discourse markers occur at phrasal and sometimes clausal
boundaries. They also tend to co-occur with markers already present. This way,
the function of discourse markers overlaps with that of relative markers. The
co-occurrence of the two elements gradually leads to semantic bleaching,
phonological reduction, cliticization, and finally, the fusion of the two
elements to form a single complex. Therefore, grammaticalization is the result
of several such historical processes.

The paper “Mood swings: Imperative verbs attract pronominal enclitics in
Ngumpin-Yapa (Australian) and southern European languages”, by Patrick
McConvell, examines the placement of clitics in imperatives and non-indicatives
in Greek, Romance, Southern-Slavic and Ngumpin-Yapa and shows that there are
similarities in pattern of variation among these languages. The paper draws
parallels between Macedonian and Bulgarian, on the one hand, and Australian
languages on the other. The general pattern is that in Macedonian, clitics
follow the verb only in imperatives, while following the second position (2P)
pattern in Bulgarian. This parallels the contrast in Australian languages
between enclisis in imperatives in central Ngumpian and second position in Yapa
and Northern Ngumpian languages. European languages such as Greek and Romance
also show clitics occurring post-verbally in imperatives. What follows from
these observations is that imperative mood is the conditioning factor for
enclisis and this seems to be the crucial evidence for a universal typological
characteristic, since it is found in diverse language families.

Joe Blythe provides an interesting account of grammaticalization in Murriny
Patha in terms of non-grammatical factors, which represents an interface she
terms “Kintax”. She argues that the socio-cultural factors regarding kinship
relations played a crucial role in the emergence of the typologically unusual
system of Murriny Patha ethical dative verb markers. This paper brings together
diverse elements such as socio-cultural factors and recorded linguistic data
within a morphosyntactic theory to account for the rising of ethical dative verb
markers in Murriny Patha.

In his paper James McElvenny shows that the evolution of ‘lai’ (‘hither’) as a
direction particle in modern Mandarin is in fact an example of divergence.
Looking at data from old and modern Chinese texts, he traces the development of
the particle ‘lai’. The lexical verb ‘lai’ (‘come’) occurred in two syntactic
environments similar to the separable and inseparable occurrence of the particle
in modern Mandarin. In old Chinese, the separable occurrence had non-causative
meaning while the inseparable one had causative meaning, which is not seen
clearly in the corresponding modern ‘lai’ constructions. This, he says, is due
to loss of verbal morphology which marked this distinction. The overlapping
functions of ‘lai’ in modern Mandarin, he says, exemplify the phenomenon of
divergence. Furthermore, the verb, over time, lost its ability to have
independent argument structure and the argument of the clause began to be
determined by the verb that accompanied ‘lai’. In this study, McElvenny
demonstrates that examination of attested data is crucial to any syntactic


The papers in this volume are refreshingly innovative in their approach to
syntactic reconstruction and some of the important issues they raise merit
further research. The collection integrates syntax, phonology, semantics, and
pragmatics by showing that grammatical change is triggered not just by
morphological or phonological changes, as is shown in most traditional
treatments, but also by other factors such as discourse and socio-cultural
aspects of language. Of particular interest is the question regarding the
relationship between grammatical change and socio-cultural factors, which has
the potential of providing new directions for future research in syntactic

The chief merit of the collection is taking a data-driven approach to the study
of grammatical change, in spite of its title, which suggests that it is
concerned with the theory and description of grammatical change. Although each
of the papers looks at grammatical change from a different perspective, the
common threat that runs though all of them is the underlying assumption that it
is data that drives theory and not the other way around. In this way, the volume
seems to fill a gap in current studies on grammatical change, many of which fail
to achieve a balance between theory and data analysis.

Another merit of this volume is that it considers data from less-frequently
studied languages, for instance, of Australia and China, alongside data from
well-researched European languages. It draws parallels between these language
families, which is crucial in any typological study. On the whole, the volume
makes good reading for researchers and also students who are interested in
research on syntactic change.

All said and done, a series like this would be more reader-friendly if it
included a short abstract at the beginning of every paper, a subject index, and
perhaps a glossary of some less-known technical terms for the benefit of less
advanced students.


Roberts, Ian and Anna Roussou. 2003. Syntactic change: a minimalist approach to
grammaticalization. Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 100. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Anuradha Sudharsan teaches introductory and advanced courses in morpho-syntax, minimalist syntax, parametric syntax, and historical linguistics. Her main research areas are as follows: Kannada syntax, syntactic change, and language convergence. She has presented and published papers on Kannada syntax, syntactic change, and contact-induced change. She would also like to write a book on Dravidian diachronic linguistics.