Refining Grammaticalization

So, what is it then, this Grammaticalization? – Approaches to Refining the Notion


Workshop at the Freie Universität Berlin


Date:                      24th - 25th February 2012


Organizers:             Ferdinand von Mengden (FU Berlin)
                              Horst Simon (FU Berlin)    


Organizing team:     Tanja Ackermann (FU Berlin)
                              Susanne Chrambach (FU Berlin)
                              Eva Valcheva (FU Berlin)


Invited Speakers:    Ulrich Detges (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich)
                              Brian D. Joseph (Ohio State University)




Call for Papers


Description of the Workshop


Already the two classical definitions of ‘grammaticalization’, by Meillet (1912) (“[l’]attribution du caractère grammatical à un mot jadis autonome”) and Kuryłowicz (1965) (“Grammaticalization consists in the increase of the range of a morpheme advancing from a lexical to a grammatical or from less grammatical to a more grammatical status […].”), vary considerably in scope. Even more so today, the label grammaticalization is used for a great array of phenomena; it seems in fact that the term has come to be used to refer to virtually anything that concerns the change or replacement of grammatical forms or constructions. While this broad scope of the notion makes ‘grammaticalization’ a widely discussed phenomenon in linguistics, the notion has necessarily become fuzzy: it has become difficult (perhaps impossible?) to find a consensus in ascribing any defining property to grammaticalization.

In this two-day workshop, we want to take stock of the various conceptualizations and try to re-focus our notion of grammaticalization in light of the empirical findings and the theoretical developments in recent years. This is motivated by our belief that most controversies concerning the properties and the status of grammaticalization have their origin in the fact that the notion has become inconsistent or even ill-defined. A further consequence is that a plethora of new Izations in the study of (grammatical) change have emerged, but no harmonious terminology – not to speak of a consistent model of the emergence and the change of grammatical forms.

On the assumption that a loose use of the term grammaticalization does not contribute any longer to our understanding of the mechanisms involved in the emergence of grammatical forms and constructions, furthermore on the assumption that what Meillet originally had in mind – the emergence of grammatical forms – is a relevant cross-linguistic phenomenon, we would like to raise the question of how to refine the notion ‘grammaticalization’ in a way that is beneficial for our understanding of language change. Questions for discussion at the workshop include, but are not restricted to:

  • To what extent do additional concepts (X-izations) like pragmaticalization, discoursization, (inter)subjectification etc., which were born out of the context of grammaticalization studies but which are themselves not defined unanimously, need to be included into (or excluded from) a framework for the study of changes in grammatical forms.
  • What is their relation with grammaticalization – in Meillet’s sense or in a wider sense?
  • What status have past and present attempts to model changes of grammatical forms, such as the traditional parameters, clines and others?
  • Are there characteristic features that can be observed in all instances of grammaticalization processes – whether in a wider or in a more narrow sense – and can therefore be considered definitory of grammaticalization?


Last Update: Feb 19, 2013