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Invited Speakers

Ulrich Detges, Munich

Grammaticalization, pragmaticalization, subjectification

What a look at diachrony can tell us about synchrony (and vice versa)

In past research, the diachronic evolution of core grammar as well as the emergence of discourse markers and of modal particles have been described within theoretical frameworks which aim at broad generalizations about language change. Thus, these types of developments have been labeled as "grammaticalization" (Diewald 2006, Silva Corvalán 2001, Autenrieth 2002, Wegener 2002), "pragmaticalization" (Dostie 2004) or "(inter-) subjectification" (Traugott 1999, Traugott / Dasher 2002, Traugott / Brinton 2005, etc). However, such labels fail to capture relevant differences. Specifically, they are far too general to understand the respective synchronic functions of core grammar, discourse markers, and modal particles. What is more, they have nothing to say about the manifestations of such differences in diachronic evolution. Adopting an invisible-hand perspective, my presentation will show that grammatical elements as well as discourse markers and modal particles are unintended by-products of dialogic argumentation in every-day speech. Generally, they can be traced back to constructions which represent certain types of argumentative stereotypes. As I will show, however, such stereotypical patterns of argumentation are solutions to very different communicative problems. Grammatical constructions strictu sensu, e.g. tense markers, go back to argumentative stereotypes which concern the impact of the message on the current situation (i.e. its validity or relevance), whereas discourse markers typically arise from argumentative negotiations over discourse coherence (i.e., from the viewpoint of the speaker, over the next move in conversation). Modal particles hold an intermediate position insofar as they are frozen argumentative moves concerning the validity of speech-act types.

Brian D. Joseph, Ohio State

What counts as (an instance of) grammaticalization

Through its title, this conference asks the question: “what is this grammaticalization?”, to which we might append some more conversational elements to make it a more urgent, though possibly impertinent-sounding, inquiry: “So, what is this grammaticalization anyway, hunh?”. Impertinence aside, I hope to approach this rather as a matter of importance, and to shed some light on the issues by trying to answer a related question: “what counts as an instance of grammaticalization?”. This latter question is related because we can only know how to count if we know what it is we are counting; conversely, if we can devise a way of recognizing instances of grammaticalization for a count, for a grammaticalization census as it were, we simultaneously solve the question of what the notion represents.

But there is another reason for considering the question of what and how to count: in the relevant literature, there are several claims that have been made about grammaticalization that are stated in quantificational terms, for example that instances of degrammaticalization are so rare as to be statistically insignificant. Yet without a clear sense of what to count and how to count it, any quantificationally based claim is meaningless.

Accordingly, in this presentation, I plan to discuss various ways in which one might devise a counting heuristic for grammaticalization with an eye to testing the quantificational claims that have been made against specific implementations of such a heuristic. More specifically, I will address the question of grammaticalization as a phenomenon of individuals versus a phenomenon of speech communities versus a phenomenon of languages. Similarly, I hope to show, once the individual versus group issue is dealt with, that by adopting Haspelmath’s 2004 definition of grammaticalization as the tightening of internal dependencies, and thus a weakening of boundaries, between elements, we are in a better position to undertake a census since linguists have developed a reasonable idea of the sort of grammatical boundaries that need to be posited (word boundaries, clitic boundaries, morpheme boundaries, phoneme-to-phoneme transitions, etc.). Further, this view generalizes to offer a solution to the problematic notion of gradience in grammaticalization – cf. Kurylowicz’s famous definition of grammaticalization as taking in movement from “more” to ”less” rammatical – since linguists have long posited a hierarchy of boundary strength that can be appealed to.

Geert Booij (Leiden) & Matthias Hüning (FU Berlin)

From compound to derivation. Affixoids and the rise of derivational affixes through 'constructionalization'

In text books on grammaticalization, the birth of affixes is mentioned as a prime example of grammaticalization processes (cf e.g. Hopper & Traugott 2003; Szczepaniak 2009). The focus is usually on inflectional affixes, but some authors want to see derivational affixes as results of grammaticalization processes, too. As elements of compounds, words can become affixoids, and affixoids can become affixes. This process involves most of the key concepts of grammaticalization studies, like semantic bleaching, context extension, decategorialization, or erosion. The notion of 'affixoid' is, however, considered as controversial (cf Stevens 2005), and the question whether affixoids are to be seen as one step in a grammaticalization process is also under discussion, as is the question whether grammaticalization is actually the right concept to account for the birth of derivational affixes.

Munske (2002), for example, wants to apply the notion of grammaticalization to the processes under discussion. And Hopper & Traugott (2003) consider the rise of the English suffix -hood as a case of grammaticalization, since a new grammatical element is added to the grammar, a new derivational affix. Brinton & Traugott (2005: 97), on the other hand, qualify the rise of derivational affixes as a case of lexicalization (instead of grammaticalization) since the morphemes involved acquire a new, unpredictable meaning. As shown by Himmelmann (2004), Lehmann also is not consistent in his use of the concepts of grammaticalization and lexicalization with respect to the rise of derivational affixes. It remains to be seen whether this is a purely terminological problem. Central to this whole question is probably whether we want to see derivational affixes as grammatical morphemes or as lexical ones.

Recently, Noël (2007) has tried to combine 'diachronic construction grammar and grammaticalization theory', and Booij (2010) has presented his 'construction morphology'. Construction grammar offers an interesting perspective on the rise of derivational affixes through its conception of a hierarchical lexion in which generalizations can be stated at different levels of abstraction. In our contribution, we will argue that affixoids can be interpreted as elements of constructional idioms; they can be seen as words or morphemes with specific properties when embedded in compounds. Therefore, the rise of affixoids and affixes can be seen as a case of construction formation or 'constructionalization' (Noël 2007 prefers the term 'schematization'), as the rise of new schematic constructions as parts of the grammar of a language. In constructionalization of this type, both elements of lexicalization and of grammaticalization are involved.

In our talk, we will discuss the usefulness of the concept of 'grammaticalization' in diachronic studies of word formation and its relation with lexicalization and constructionalization. As pointed out by Noël, grammaticalization seems to presuppose constructionalization, but "the two developments need to be kept apart because not all constructions go on to grammaticalize‚Äù (Noël 2007: 177). This view might offer a new perspective on the rise of derivational affixes and we hope that our discussion of the concepts can be helpful in 'refining grammaticalization'. We will provide thorough analyses of some examples from Dutch and German to illustrate our argumentation.


Booij, Geert. 2010. Construction Morphology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Brinton, Laurel J. & Elizabeth C. Traugott. 2005. Lexicalization and Language Change. Cambridge, New York etc.: Cambridge University Press. Himmelmann, Nikolaus P. 2004. Lexicalization and grammaticization: Opposite or orthogonal? In Walter Bisang, Nikolaus Himmelmann & Björn Wiemer (eds.), What makes grammaticalization? A look from its fringes and its components, 21-42. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Hopper, Paul J. & Elizabeth Closs Traugott. 2003. Grammaticalization. Second edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Munske, Horst Haider. 2002. Wortbildungswandel. In Mechthild Habermann, Peter O. Müller & Horst Haider Munske (eds.), Historische Wortbildung des Deutschen, 23-40. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag. Noël, Dirk. 2007. Diachronic construction grammar and grammaticalization theory. Functions of Language 14(2). 177-202. Stevens, Christopher M. 2005. Revisiting the Affixoid Debate: On the Grammaticalization of the Word. In Torsten Leuschner, Tanja Mortelmans & Sarah De Groodt (eds.), Grammatikalisierung im Deutschen, 71-83. Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter. Szczepaniak, Renata. 2009. Grammatikalisierung im Deutschen. Eine Einführung. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.

Tine Breban (Leuven)

Defining secondary grammaticalization: semantic and formal subprocesses

“Secondary” grammaticalization refers to cases of grammaticalization affecting elements that already have a grammatical function and proceed to develop a new grammatical function. One of the poster child examples is the development from demonstrative determiner to definite article, e.g. that > the in English. The term was introduced by Givón (1991) to account for the reanalyses of markers of one morphosyntactic category into another one, e.g. of aspect markers into tense morphemes. These examples are characterized by morphophonological reduction + fusion and obligatorification. As this definition is tailored to inflected languages, it proves problematic for non-inflected ones such as English. A second definition (Hopper & Traugott 2003) focuses on the semantic processes involved: secondary grammaticalization is the change from a grammatical meaning to a more grammatical one. This definition is broader and encompasses Givón’s examples. However, it raises certain key terminological questions: how is one to assess that one meaning is “more” grammatical than another one (Brinton & Traugott 2005: 147-150) and is it necessary for the second meaning to be “more” grammatical in the first place? Other questions concern the presence of formal features. Assuming that, as has been argued for “primary” grammaticalization from lexical to grammatical item, mere semantic change without any formal accompaniments is a non-sufficient criterion, which are the formal properties involved? Givón’s patterns of formal bonding and reduction (cf. supra) apply to certain types of languages only. It is only very recently that the notion of secondary grammaticalization has been picked up in the debate on grammaticalization and its defining properties have not be studied in detail. Norde (2010) and Traugott (2011) are interested in the relation between secondary grammaticalization and subjectification/desubjectification, suggesting that subjectification is less likely to occur in secondary grammaticalization. The formal properties put forward so far include obligatorification (Kranich 2008), automaticization and restriction of syntactic contexts (Traugott 2011).

The aim of this paper is to investigate the properties of secondary grammaticalization further using examples of secondary grammaticalization in one domain of English grammar, the noun phrase. I will look at the development from quantifier to indefinite article, e.g. one > a, demonstrative to definite article, e.g. that > the and, lesser known developments from emphasizer to anaphoric referential, e.g. same, very (Author 2010; 2011) and from individualizer to quantifier, e.g. several, certain (Author 2008). The semantic processes found in the English noun phrase are characterized by advanced delexicalization and reduction of constraints on the semantic context visible in collocational broadening and sometimes also broadening of genres/types of texts. The formal processes include, in addition to obligatorification, paradigmaticization, host-class expansion and progressive leftward positioning in the phrasal structure. This last feature provides further evidence for the claim that the formal changes in secondary grammaticalization are not universal, but determined by the type of language. A comparison with the processes of primary grammaticalization affecting same, very, certain and several, will allow me to evaluate to what degree primary and secondary grammaticalization are different. The paper also adds to the understanding of the formal (e.g. Givón) versus semantic (e.g. Traugott) traditions in grammaticalization studies.


Author. 2008. The grammaticalization and subjectification of English adjectives expressing difference into plurality ⁄ distributivity markers and quantifiers. Folia Linguistica 42(2): 259–306. Author. 2010. Reconstructing paths of secondary grammaticalization of same from emphasizing to phoricity and single-referent-marking postdeterminer uses. Transactions of the philological society 108(1): 68−87. Author. 2011. Is there a postdeterminer in the English noun phrase? Transactions of the Philological Society 108(3): 248–64. Brinton, Laurel J. & Elizabeth C. Traugott. 2005. Lexicalization and Language Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Givón, Talmy. 1991. The evolution of dependent clause morpho-syntax in Biblical Hebrew. In Elizabeth C. Traugott & Bernd Heine, eds. Approaches to Grammaticalization, vol. 2: Types of Grammatical Markers. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 257–310. Hopper, Paul J. & Elizabeth C. Traugott. 2003 [1993]. Grammaticalization, 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kranich, Svenja. 2008. Subjective progressives in seventeenth and eightteenth century English: Secondary grammaticalization as a process of objectification. In Maurizio Gotti, Marina Dossena & Richard Dury, eds. English Historical Linguistics 2006. Selected Papers from the Fourteenth International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL 14), Bergamo, 21–25 August 2006. Volume I: Syntax and Morphology. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 241–256. Norde, Muriel. 2010. (De)grammaticalization and (de)subjectification. Plenary paper presented at GramiS (International Conference on Grammaticalization and (Inter)Subjectification). 11–13 November 2010. Brussels. Traugott, Elizabeth C. 2011. (Inter)subjectivity and (inter)subjectification: a reassessment. In Hubert Cuyckens, Kristin Davidse & Lieven Vandelanotte, eds. Subjectification, Intersubjectification and Grammaticalization. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 29–69.

Hubert Cuyckens (Leuven)

Grammaticalization and clausal verb complementation

It has (recently) been suggested (Lehmann 1988; Hopper & Traugott 2003; Givón 2006) that clause linkage processes and in particular the development of complementation patterns can also be seen as a grammaticalization process, in that verb complements may be subject to a process of ‘decategorialization’ (in a way similar to the decategorialization of lexical items) when being integrated with a main clause. As such, verb complements may show a path of development “from a loose, paratactic concatenation via syntacticization into non-finite embedding” (Givón 1979: 214), whereby the non-finite shows a reduction in tense-aspect morphology [and] lack of subject agreement, may (at least for English) have become reduced to a to­-infinitive or gerundive –ing clause, and thus shows more unified/bonded clause combining (cf. Hopper & Traugott 2003).

The purpose of this paper is to show that this (non-traditional) clausal view of grammaticalization is not wholly unproblematic, and hence that any viable notion of grammaticalization at clausal level will have to be carefully defined. To investigate the unidirectional, diachronic path presumed by this grammaticalization hypothesis, this paper presents a corpus-based analysis of change and variation, from Early Modern English to Present-day English, in finite that-complement clauses (that-CCs) and non-finite gerundive -ing clauses (-ing­-CCs) with factive verbs such as regret, admit, remember, and resent. This set of verbs is particularly suited because because it patterns both with the finite that-complement clause (that-CC) and the non-finite gerundive -ing clause (-ing­-CC).

The results are not unequivocal: for one, they point to a shift from a relatively higher proportion of finite complements to a higher proportion of non-finite complements, which seems in line with the hypothesis; at the same time, throughout the period investigated, that­-CCs retain an important share of all complement tokens – they even develop new uses from LModE onwards (e.g., the metalinguistic uses as in My lady and Miss Rachel regret[= regret to say] that they are engaged, Colonel, and beg to be excused…]).

Against the background of these results, the general issue will be addressed whether a relative increase from a finite (looser) that-CC to a more bonded/decategorialized -ing pattern represents a path of gradually stronger integration of the complement clause into the matrix (or clausal grammaticalization), or whether it merely points to increasing replacement of one pattern by the other (for instance, because of semantic similarity between the patterns). In that light, a more refined notion of clausal decategorialization/grammaticalization may only apply to those -ing-CCs whose syntactic complexity decreases from [S – V-ing – (O/Adjunct)] to [V-ing (O/Adjunct)] or to those ing-CCs that become obligatory following a particular (sense of a) matrix verb (cf. Lehmann’s notion of obligatoriness)

The problems with the diachronic path ‘finite > non-finite’ that this study brings to light tie in with Joseph’s (1983) observations, who has pointed to the Balkan loss of the infinitive and its replacement by finite forms, and with Deutscher’s (2000) research on the development of sentential complementation in Akkadian, which is seen to take over the function of earlier non-finite infinitival complementation. Finally, this research appears to lend support to Fischer’s concerns regarding the (alleged) grammaticalization path from that-CCs to non-finite to-infinitives with verbs of volition (cf. Fischer 2007: 221).


Deutscher, Guy. 2000. Syntactic change in Akkadian: The Evolution of Sentential Complementation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fischer, Olga. 2007. Morphosyntactic change: Functional and formal perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Givón, Talmy. 1979. On understanding grammar. New York: Academic Press. Givón, Talmy. 2006. “Multiple routes to clause union: the diachrony of syntactic complexity.” MS. University of Oregon. Heine, Bernd. 2008. “From nominal to clausal morphosyntax: Complexity via expansion.” Paper presented at the International Symposium on the Rise of Syntactic Complexity, Rice University, Houston, TX, 27-29 March 2008. Hopper, Paul & Elizabeth Closs Traugott. 2003. Grammaticalization, 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Heine, Bernd & Tania Kuteva. The genesis of grammar: A reconstruction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Joseph, Brian. 1983. The synchrony and diachrony of the Balkan infinitive. Cambridge: CUP. Lehmann, Christian. 1988. “Towards a typology of clause linkage”. In J. Haiman & S. Thompson (eds.), Clause combining in grammar and discourse. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 181-225.


HC = Helsinki Corpus—CEECS = Corpus of Early English Correspondence Sampler—CEMET = Corpus of Early Modern English Texts—CLMETEV = Corpus of Late Modern English texts (extended version).—CB = Collins Cobuild Corpus

Kristin Davidse (Leuven)

Distinguishing grammaticalization from lexicalization

Recent theory-formation has recognized the challenge of distinguishing grammaticalization from the in many ways similar process of lexicalization (e.g. Wischer 2002, Brinton & Traugott 2005). Both processes affect syntagms, not individual items, and involve semantic erosion, fusion and fixing of the component elements. Their outcome, however, differs: grammaticalization leads to a unit with categorial or operational meaning, and lexicalization to a unit with a specific, contentful meaning. According to Lehmann (2002: 13), a grammaticalized unit is accessed “analytically”, i.e. “as a grammatical construction in which the structural properties of either X or Y … make a regular contribution to the pattern”. Lexicalized units, by contrast, are accessed “holistically”, because their internal relations “become irregular and get lost”. Trousdale (forthc.) stresses that grammaticalization involves greater productivity as well as a higher token frequency than lexicalization.

I will argue that associating lexicalization with non-analyzability and non-productivity is problematic. For instance, composite predicates, which are derived from a light verb and a NP with deverbal noun (Brinton & Akimoto 1999) are only semi-fixed and tend to retain analyzability. The noun’s structural modification potential can be exploited to express qualitative and quantitative features of the described actions, e.g. make three serious mistakes, which may account for the pattern’s productivity (Halliday 1994: 147). The frequency of some composite predicates is high and as such does not allow principled differentiation from, for instance, periphrastic auxiliaries.I will propose that grammaticalization is better distinguished from lexicalization in terms of our general understanding of what it means to be a member of the lexicon or a structure in the grammar.

As stressed in lexicosemantics and cognitive psychology, lexical items are defined by their distinct collocational patterns. The products of lexicalization and idiomatization can therefore be recognized by the fact that they exercise collocational control over a unique set of collocates. Conversely, the process of grammaticalization is characterized by the lifting of collocational selection restrictions: grammaticalizing units extend to more and more lexicosemantic sets (Hopper 1991) and eventually specific semantic prosodies of the collocates can be expected to disappear (Lorenz 2002).

The specificity of grammaticalizing structures lies both on the paradigmatic and syntagmatic axis. Syntagmatically, grammaticalizing structures are characterized by increasing secondariness (Boye & Harder 2007). Grammatical elements are intrinsically relational elements, which, in the case of subjective grammatical markers, are modifiers of, or operators on, the propositional material in their scope. If elements shift from lexical to grammatical meaning, it should be possible to observe how they shift from being part of the lexical material being asserted to forging relations within, or modifying, the propositional material. Paradigmatically, I propose, with reference to Halliday (1991, 1994), that grammaticalization involves increasing systemicness. The oppositions within a grammatical paradigm can, at an abstract level, be viewed as obtaining between features generalizing over members. The organization of grammar crucially hinges on interdependencies between features from different systems. As items grammaticalize, they become not simply members of a grammatical class (e.g. modal auxiliary), but they come to express combinations of features from different systems, e.g. from modality (dynamic – deontic – epistemic) and polarity (positive vs. externally – internally negative).

All the theoretical points made will be illustrated with the history of the modal parenthetical there is no question, which over time developed uses involving multiple combinations of modal and polar values, such as emphatically positive epistemic, emphatically positive deontic, externally negated dynamic-deontic, internally negated epistemic. These grammaticalized uses were predated - and prefashioned - by various lexicalizations, such as the now obsolete composite predicate make question. (De Wolf & author subm.).


Boye, Kaspar & Peter Harder. 2007. Complement-taking predicates: Usage and linguistic structure. Studies in Language 31. 569-606. Brinton, Laurel & Minoji Akimoto (eds). 1999. Collocational and idiomatic aspects of composite predicates in the history of English. Amsterdam: Benjamins. Brinton, Laurel & Elizabeth Traugott. 2005. Lexicalization and language change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. De Wolf, Simon & author. Subm. Lexicalization and grammaticalization: modal modifier constructions with no question. Halliday, Michael. 1991. Towards probabilistic interpretations. In Ejia Ventola (ed.), Functional and systemic linguistics: Approaches and uses, 39-61. Berlin: Mouton. Halliday, Michael. 1994. An introduction to functional grammar. 2nd ed. London: Arnold. Hopper, Paul. 1991. “On Some Principles of Grammaticization”. In Elizabeth Traugott & Bernd Heine, (eds) Approaches to Grammaticalization, Vol I. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 17-36. Lehmann, Christian. 2002. New reflections on grammaticalization and lexicalization. In Ilse Wischer & Gabriele Diewald (eds), New reflections on grammaticalization, 1-18. Amsterdam: Benjamins. Lorenz, Gunther. 2002. Really worthwhile or not really significant? A corpus-based approach to delexicalization and grammaticalization of intensifiers in Modern English. In Ilse Wischer & Gabriele Diewald (eds) New Reflections on Grammaticalization, 143-161. Amsterdam: Benjamins. Trousdale, Graeme. Forthc.. Grammaticalization, constructions and the grammaticalization of constructions. In Tine Breban, Lieselotte Brems, Kristin Davidse & Tanja Mortelmans (eds), Grammaticalization and language change: origins, criteria and outcomes. Amsterdam: Benjamins. Wisher, Ilse. 2002. Grammaticalization versus lexicalization – ‘methinks’ there is some confusion. In Olga Fisher, Annette Rosenbach & Dieter Stein (eds) Pathways of Change: grammaticalization in English. 355-370. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Csilla Ilona Dér (Budapest)

Grammaticalizaton: a specific type of semantic and category change

Grammaticalization is one of the most discussed phenomenon in historical linguistics, not only because of its numerous different definitions, but due to the lack of agreement as well, as to whether it exists as a distinct type of language change, or not. Interestingly, the very approaches that treat grammaticalization as being no more than an epiphenomenon (cf. Newmeyer 2001) emphasize the most relevant features of the concept according to grammaticalization theory: directionality and the characteristics of the semantic and syntactic changes involved.

It is generally agreed upon that grammaticalization theory describes grammaticalization as a complex change; this complexity itself is what the formalist camp have objections against. But even if we admit that grammaticalization contains different changes that follow each other, it is not quite clear, where the process has its start and ending, which mechanisms are (the invariant) constituents, which ones only trigger it, or have nothing to do with it. For example, in Hungarian, after the 14th century phonological reduction occured only seldom as part of any grammaticalization process, e. g. only the six oldest verbal prefixes were shortened (megé > meg ’back; perfect aspect’, lé > le ’down’, etc.), the later ones (e. g. haza ’back; home’, körbe ’round’) never. It follows that we can not use the criteria of formal reduction when we try to give a detailed definition of grammaticalization.

A significant problem is that most definitions of grammaticalization are far too broad, as they usually describe the shift from the referential domain to the grammatical/functional domain of language (e. g. Haspelmath 1999). These approaches cover a lot of grammatical changes, but do not tell what exactly constitutes grammaticalization as a distinct process.

The aims of this paper are twofold: firstly, it shows on empirical data (BEA, MNSz corpus) that some structural changes that are mostly considered as part of the grammaticalization process itself, can be completely independent of it (e. g. Hungarian azt hiszem ~ asszem ’I think’ → attitude marker), while in some cases structural and semantic changes go hand in hand (e. g. Hungarian ilyen ’such; of this’; így ’this way; so’; akkor ’then’; azért ’for that’; demonstrative → discourse connective/ attitude marker).

Secondly, it attempts to provide a stronger definition of grammaticalization by pointing out that it has two essential components: 1) it is a specific type of semantic change which 2) always results in category change. The grammaticalizing linguistic expression loses from its referential meaning and gains functional (grammatical, pragmatical) meaning. It is not a simple change in the level of abstraction, because its output is the functional area of language, and also differs from bidirectional semantic reanalysis, conditioned by structural reanalyis (cf. Eckardt 2006). Category change takes place gradually and is unidirectional: its target is a functional category, therefore grammaticalization does not necessarily involve reanalysis (cf. Haspelmath 1998, Denison 2010). Category change is also not identical to conversion, as it refers not only to word classes, but to other categories as well (e. g. affixes, pragmatic markers). This definition excludes the interpretation of grammaticalization as being purely syntactic or purely semantic change, which can also occur independently, or as the sum of such independent semantic and syntactic changes.


BEA = Magyar Spontán Beszéd Adatbázis [Hungarian Database of Spontaneous Speech]. http://www.nytud.hu/adatb/bea/index.html Denison, David 2010. Category change in English with and without structural change. In: Traugott, Elizabeth Closs – Trousdale, Graeme (eds) Gradience, gradualness and grammaticalization. Philadelphia/Amsterdam: John Benjamins.105–128. Eckardt, Regine 2006. Meaning change in grammaticalization. An inquiry into semantic reanalysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Haspelmath, Martin 1998. Does grammaticalization reanalysis? In: Studies in Language 22 (2): 315–351. Haspelmath, Martin 1999. Why is grammaticalization irreversible? In: Linguistics 37 (6): 1043–1068. MNSz = Magyar Nemzeti Szövegtár [Hungarian National Corpus]. http://corpus.nytud.hu/mnsz/ Newmeyer, Frederick J. 2001. Deconstructing grammaticalization. In: Language Sciences 23: 187–229.

Peter Harder & Kasper Boye (Copenhagen)

Grammaticalization and constructionalization

This paper first outlines a new, usage-based theory of grammaticalization (Boye & Harder forthcoming) and subsequently proposes a precise understanding of the relationship between grammaticalization and constructionalization (cf. e.g. Traugott 2008, Trousdale 2008).

The central idea behind the usage-based theory is that grammatical expressions (morphemes, words, complex constructions) cannot themselves convey the main point of a linguistic message, but are conventionalized as serving an ancillary purpose by providing secondary (background) information, and that grammaticalization consists in the development of such expressions. Thus, grammaticalization can be defined as follows:

Grammaticalization is the diachronic change which gives rise to linguistic expressions which are by convention ancillary and as such discursively secondary.

Among the arguments for the theory are 1) that it provides a unified motivation for features such as semantic reduction, phonological reduction, increase in boundness, and obligatorification, which have traditionally been associated with grammaticalization; 2) that it makes possible a precise answer to the question of what qualifies lexical expressions for grammaticalization; 3) that it offers diagnostic criteria of grammaticalization; and 4) that it links up with a simple hypothesis about the phylogeny of grammar. The most important argument is that in the vast majority of cases the theory captures widely shared intuitions about which changes count as grammaticalization, and which do not. In particular, it captures as grammaticalization not only familiar cases in which a lexical word develops into a grammatical one, but also constructionalization, i.e. cases in which a whole new complex construction emerges: both grammatical words and complex constructions are ancillary and as such discursively secondary relative to syntagmatically associated elements.

In addition, the theory provides a framework within which there is both a clearcut distinction and a clearcut relationship between the two types of cases. The distinction is that while ‘classic’ grammaticalization of lexical words consists in the conventionalization (i.e. coding) of discursively secondary lexical meaning; constructionalization consists in the conventionalization of discursively secondary pragmatic implicatures as meanings of specific structural combinations

The key relation between the two types is that while grammaticalization of lexical expressions is always accompanied by constructionalization, constructionalization may occur in the absence of word-level grammaticalization. In addition to a discussion of phenomena like syntactizization and the rise of categories such as determiners, the distinction is illustrated by an in-depth study of the contrast between the development of auxiliaries like Danish evidential skulle (the equivalent of German evidential sollen) and the development of lexical raising verbs like Danish synes (the equivalent of Germen scheinen).


Boye, Kasper & Peter Harder. Forthcoming. "A usage-based theory of grammatical status and grammaticalization". To appear in Language. Traugott, Elizabeth Closs. 2008. The grammaticalization of NP of NP patterns. Constructions and language change, ed. by Alexander Bergs and Gabriele Diewald, 23-45. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Trousdale, Graeme. 2008. Constructions in grammaticalization and lexicalization: Evidence from the history of a composite predicate construction in English. Constructional Approaches to English Grammar, ed. by Graeme Trousdale and Nicholas Gisborne, 33-67. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Torsten Leuschner (Ghent)

At the Interface of Discourse and Syntax: Complex Sentence Constructions and ‘Grammaticalization’

Any effort to „refine“ the notion of grammaticalization will need to involve clarification of its interface with discourse. For instance, can the rise of complex sentence constructions from clause-combining in discourse be subsumed under grammaticalization? Hopper/Traugott think so (2003: 175-211), but their main focus is on exemplification rather than theoretical justification. The long tradition that the issue has in historical linguistics (see e.g. Paul 1920: 144-150) is turned on its head in Harris/Campbell's Historical Syntax in Cross-Linguistic Perspective (1995: 282-313), where an entire chapter is dedicated to an ultimately pointless polemic denying the very possibility that complex sentences evolve (let alone grammaticalize) from paratactical clause-combining in discourse. Fischer (2008: 358) will not go this far, but seems to be at a loss as to the right parameters that might subsume clause-combining under grammaticalization. Citing Fischer, Norde (2009: 26) excludes clause-combining from her discussion of degrammaticalization, curiously adding that it is „hard to see“ what the opposite of clause-combining might be (ibd.). Since this may not be quite so hard to see for everybody, it is high time to clear up some confusion.

In my paper I would like to contribute to a clarification of the issue in two ways. First, I would like to argue that the rise of complex sentence constructions from discourse is indeed grammaticalization, notwithstanding the challenge it presents to the morphology-oriented parameters of classic grammaticalization theory (e.g. Lehmann 1995). Second, I would like to argue in favour of a distinction between the relatively extreme examples that Harris/Campbell are attacking, e.g. the direct rise of various types of conditionals from patterns of interrogation in Germanic (cf. recently Van den Nest 2010, Leuschner 2006), and the more run-of-the-mill cases that Fischer has in mind, which involve several lower-level changes simultaneously or in succession, such as the fixation of word-order patterns, the lexicalization of subordinators, and reanalysis at various constructional levels (cf. Leuschner/ Van den Nest fc.). Contrary to what Fischer and Norde think, the nature of these changes does not make it more difficult to account for clause-combining in terms of grammaticalization. Rather, the effort of teasing them apart allows us to subsume clause-combining under grammaticalization for the right reasons, and thus to defuse the debate and move on.


Fischer, Olga (2008): “On Analogy as the Motivation for Grammaticalization.” In: Studies in Language 32, 336-382. Harris, Alice C. / Campbell, Lyle (1995): Historical Syntax from a Cross-Linguistic Perspec-tive. Cambridge: C.U.P. Hopper, Paul J. / Traugott, Elizabeth C. (2003): Grammaticalization. Second edition. Cam-bridge: C.U.P. Lehmann, Christian (1995): Thoughts on Grammaticalization. Munich: Lincom. Leuschner, Torsten (2006): Hypotaxis as Building-Site: The Emergence and Grammaticaliza-tion of Concessive Conditionals in English, German and Dutch. Munich: Lincom. Leuschner, Torsten / Van den Nest (fc.): "The Diachronic Emergence of Hypotaxis as Prototype: Processes and Consequences in German and Dutch." To appear in: Language Sciences. Norde, Muriel (2009): Degrammaticalization. Oxford: O.U.P. Paul, Hermann (1920): Prinzipien der Sprachgeschichte. Halle (Saale): Niemeyer. Van den Nest, Daan (2010): Emergenz und Grammatikalisierung von V1-Konditionalen. Ein Rekonstruktionsversuch am Beispiel des Deutschen und Englischen. Ph.D. diss., Ghent University

Muriel Norde and Karin Beijering (Groningen)

Facing interfaces – a clustering approach

Many instances of change that have been discussed within the framework of grammaticalization studies notoriously defy categorization, for instance because they share properties of grammaticalization and lexicalization (e.g. Brinton & Traugott’s (2005: 111ff.) case studies), or because they share some properties of grammaticalization, but not all of them, as in the case of discourse markers (e.g. Ocampo 2006). For example, discourse markers do not belong to categories (traditionally) labeled ‘grammatical’, nor do they become rule-governed, i.e. grammatically obligatory. The problem of categorizing discourse markers has been approached in various ways. One solution has been to consider the rise of discourse markers a distinct process, for which different labels have been suggested, e.g. ‘pragmaticalization’ (Aijmer 1997), or ‘grammaticalization II’ (meaning movement towards discourse; Wischer 2000). Alternatively, discourse has been considered part of grammar (e.g. in Diewald 2011), so that discourse markers are grammatical markers after all and hence fall under the scope of the term ‘grammaticalization’. Neither solution however has helped to reduce the terminological confusion that this workshop aims to confront. As regards the introduction of new categories of change, we wholeheartedly agree with the workshop organizers that the introduction of new labels for problematic cases, resulting in a plethora of izations, only added to the conceptual fuzziness. On the other hand, stretching the notion of ‘grammar’, and hence of ‘grammaticalization’ to the point that the development of discourse markers become ‘standard cases of grammaticalization’ (Diewald 2011: 384) obscures substantial differences between different cases of grammaticalization in this sense, making it a heterogeneous category with little descriptive power.

In our talk, we will discuss three different case studies from the domain of epistemic modality in Continental Scandinavian (Beijering, forthcoming), to wit the modal verb ‘may’, the epistemic adverb ‘maybe’, and the mental state predicate ‘I think’. These cases pose a problem for traditional theorizing, for not only are they all at the interface of (most current definitions of) grammaticalization, lexicalization and pragmaticalization, they also differ from one another, so that it would not make much sense to introduce yet another cover term for them. Thus, we propose to abandon the idea that changes can be boxed into predefined categories. Instead, we will argue that it is more useful to reduce these cases to their primitive changes (cf. Norde 2009: 36), i.e. changes at the level of phonology, morphology, syntax, and discourse. Identifying parameters for each of these levels (adapted in part from Lehmann’s (1995[1982]) parameters of grammaticalization’), we will show that primitive changes tend to form different clusters. These clusters may coincide with changes traditionally labeled ‘grammaticalization’, ‘degrammaticalization’, or ‘lexicalization’, but it will be seen that changes may also cluster in alternative ways. This is true, for example, of the case studies presented in our talk. The advantage of a clustering approach is that primitive changes (e.g. semantic reduction versus enrichment, morphological fusion versus separation) are less controversial than ambiguous labels such as ‘grammaticalization’, and are independent of one’s definition of ‘lexical’ or ‘grammatical’.


Aijmer. 1997. I think – an English modal particle. In Swan, Toril & Olaf Jansen estvik (eds) Modality in Germanic languagues. Historical and comparative perspectives, 1-47. Berlin / New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Beijering, Karin. forthcoming. Expressions of epistemic modality in Mainland Scandinavian: A study into the lexicalization-grammmaticalization-pragmaticalization interface. PhD thesis, University of Groningen. Brinton, Laurel J. & Elizabeth Closs Traugott. 2005. Lexicalization and language change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Diewald, Gabriele. 2011. Pragmaticalization (defined) as grammaticalization of discourse functions. Linguistics 49(2), 365-390. Lehmann, Christian. 1995 [1982]. Thoughts on grammaticalization. München / Newcastle: Lincom Europa. Norde, Muriel. 2009. Degrammaticalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ocampo, Francisco. 2006. Movement towards discourse is not grammaticalization: the evolution of claro from adjective to discourse particle in spoken Spanish. In Sagarra, Nuria & Almeida Jacqueline Toribio (eds) Selected proceedings of the 9th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium, 308-319. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project. Wischer, Ilse. 2000. Grammaticalization versus lexicalization. ‘Methinks’ there is some confusion. In Fischer, Olga, Anette Rosenbach & Dieter Stein (eds) Pathways of change. Grammaticalization in English, 355-370. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Elena Smirnova (Hanover)

(Inter)subjectification, pragmaticalization and how they relate to grammaticalization

The concepts of (inter)subjectivity and (inter)subjectification as well of pragmaticalization first appeared in the context of grammaticalization research. As these notions gradually have become an integral part of many descriptions of semantic change, they also has received different, sometimes even conflicting interpretations sometimes leading to controversial opinions on what their exact nature is. In the last years increasing concerns regarding the vagueness and “elusiveness” of the notions of subjectivity and subjectification have been raised by several authors (cf. Breban 2006, de Smet/Verstraete 2006, Visconti 2010, Lópes-Couso 2010, etc.):

In spite of the growing popularity of these topics and of the pervasiveness of (inter)subjectification phenomena within and across languages, such notions remain relatively vague and elusive, still lacking airtight definitions. (López-Couso 2010: 127)

Recently there have been some interesting attempts to operationalize subjectification. The aim is to move from the admittedly rather vague notion of ambient subjectivity and interlocutor interaction as a motivating force in subjectification, toward identifying the types of linguistic context in which one might expect to find evidence for subjectification. (Traugott 2010: 26)

Moreover, the issue of the (in)distinctness of grammaticalization and pragmaticalization processes is closely tied to the discussion on diachronic changes that involve (inter)subjectification. The question that still remains is thus: what is the exact nature of the inter-relationship between (semantic change in) grammaticalization and pragmaticalization on one hand and (inter)subjectification as a particular kind of semantic change on the other?

This paper will offer some suggestions for the clarification of this question. I will approach the issue from the perspective of (inter)subjectification. I so doing, I will show that it is a heterogeneous concept that requires further refinement and propose to subclassify it into two distinct types. The first one concerns the development of so-called evaluative meanings and is supposed to be only rarely found in grammaticalization. The second one is the development of speaker-oriented, or communicatively (inter)subjective, meanings, and operates in both grammaticalization and pragmaticalization processes. Furthermore, it will be hypothesized that the difference between grammaticalization and pragmaticalization basically rests on the difference between subjectification and intersubjectification.

Examples from the diachrony of German will be used to exemplify the proposed distinctions, e.g. the development of modal particles and discourse markers (also called pragmaticalization and/ or grammaticalization) and of evidential constructions (also conceived of as grammaticalization).


Breban, Tine. 2006. Grammaticalization and subjectification of the English adjectives of general comparison. In: A. Athanasiadou, C. Canakis and B. Cornillie (eds.) Subjectification: Various paths to subjectivity. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 241-278. de Smet, Hendrik and Jean-Christophe Verstraete. 2006. Coming to terms with subjectivity. Cognitive Linguistics 17-3, 365-392. López-Couso, María José. 2010. Subjectification and intersubjectification. In Andreas H. Jucker and Irma Taavitsainen (eds.), Handbook of Pragmatics: Historical Pragmatics. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 127-164. Traugott, Elizabeth C. 2010. (Inter)subjectivity and (inter)subjectification: a reassessment. In: Cuyckens, Hubert, Kristin Davidse and Lieven Vandelanotte (eds.) Subjectification, intersubjectification and grammaticalization. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Traugott, Elizabeth C. and Richard B. Dasher. 2002. Regularity in Semantic Change. Cambridge: CUP. Visconti, Jacqueline. 2010. Facets of subjectification. Unpublished Ms.

Graeme Trousdale (Edinburgh)

Grammaticalization in a network model of language

This paper explores how a network model of language (such as that proposed by Langacker 1987, Goldberg and Jackendoff 2004, and Hudson 2007) may be used to account for the development of grammatical forms. In particular, the paper considers how growth and contraction in the language network relate to the traditional notion of directionality in grammaticalization.

The first part of the paper provides a brief summary of the principles of the network model relevant to language change. These are:

a. tokens of use are nodes in the language network that form part of the speaker/hearer’s knowledge of language, i.e. this is a usage-based model of language structure;

b. the structure of the network allows for multiple default inheritance, with the consequence that gradience in at least some cases is predicted by the architecture of the model;

c. entrenchment of nodes in the network is the product of successful use (Langacker 1987); both schematic and substantive nodes may become more entrenched or less entrenched over time.

The second part of the paper links Traugott’s characterization of grammaticalization as reduction vs. grammaticalization as expansion (Traugott 2010) to growth and contraction within the network. By treating each type node in the network as a construction (i.e. an abstract, conventionalized pairing of form and meaning), and each token node as a construct, it is possible to show how the ‘expansion’ model of grammaticalization (Himmelmann 2004) correlates with grammaticalization as increased reduction and dependency (Lehmann 1995, Haspelmath 2004). Grammatical constructionalization (e.g. Traugott 2008) is shown to involve the creation of new type nodes as a product of the reanalysis of frequently used constructs that are themselves the product of multiple default inheritance. The new type node (which constitutes expansion) may develop internal reduction and new external dependencies (see also Gisborne 2008, 2011).

The third part of the talk considers the connection between expansion/reduction and directionality. Drawing again on the notion of constructionalization, I show how grammatical constructionalization in its early stages is directional, in that the micro-construction becomes more general, productive and less compositional (Langacker 2005). I use the network model to illustrate how the initial decrease in compositionality of the micro-construction is a consequence of a reanalysis of internal dependencies.

Throughout, the discussion is illustrated with reference to the development of future markers in English: the modals will and shall, and ‘periphrastic’ constructions such as BE going to V, BE about to V, and BE on the verge of Ving. By concentrating on such expressions, it is possible to demonstrate growth and contraction in different parts of the constructional network. Furthermore, the different micro-constructions show different kinds of reanalyses (compare the development of the modals with the development of BE going to, for instance), while the different ‘periphrastic’ constructions illustrate the product of different intersections in the network through multiple default inheritance (for example, BE going to inherits from the progressive BE Ving and purposive to constructions; only the latter construction is shared with BE about to).

Nigel Vincent und Kersti Börjars (Manchester)

Models of grammaticalization: compositionality and beyond

We start from the assumption that Meillet (1912) was correct in identifying a general class of changes involving ‘‘l’attribution du caractère grammatical à un mot jadis autonome”, and that reverse changes are rare at best. There is a natural parallel with some sequential sound changes. ‘The unidirectionality of grammaticalisation is probably best regarded as comparable to the unidirectionality of lenition in phonological change: a much better than chance occurrence in language change, which may be invoked in linguistic explanation, but which also admits exceptions …’ (Nicholas 1999: 21, cf Bermúdez-Otero & Trousdale 2011). This comparison makes clear an important point of departure: what Meillet describes is a mechanism not an explanation of change. The challenge — which the present paper addresses — is to determine how best to model such changes so that the diachronic and synchronic evidence mesh. Grammaticalization defines a body of data which raises questions for a theory of linguistic change and the answers to these questions must in turn be compatible with a theory of language tout court.

To date, these phenomena have been tackled from a range of perspectives: Minimalism (Roberts & Roussou 2005, van Gelderen 2004), Construction Grammar (Traugott & Trousdale 2010), Dynamic Syntax (Bouzouita 2008). We argue, however, that each of these approaches is in different ways flawed and that Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG) provides a better model for three reasons. First, it is a realizational theory in which form — whether syntactic (c-structure) or morphological (m-structure) — is represented independently of content (f-structure). This is necessary since changes of form and content may proceed at different paces. Thus, Pennsylvania German fer has evolved from complementizer to infinitive-marking function without thereby changing syntactic configuration. Conversely, French modal devrait ‘ought’ retains the morphosemantic compositionality of its etymon debere + habe- + -bat ‘necessity + future + past’ (von Fintel & Iatridou 2008) despite shifting over time from VP-complement structure to periphrasis to synthetic verb form. Second, as Romance conditionals also serve to illustrate, LFG permits, via the level of s(emantic)-structure, an explicit formal account of the meaning changes undergone during the process of grammaticalization, thus allowing us to incorporate the important results of Eckardt (2006). Third, the ability to model morphology without reducing it to covert syntax (whether categorial or constructionist) allows a more faithful account of the processes whereby originally syntactic constructions come to be integrated into pre-existing inflectional systems.

We develop these themes and arguments through an analysis of selected periphrastic constructions in Romance and Germanic, focussing on three situations:

i) ‘classic’ grammaticalization in which developments follow well-attested cross-linguistic paths: futures/conditionals from ‘go’ verbs and pasts from ‘come’ verbs;

ii) ‘local’ developments where the semantic shift runs counter to what is expected: Catalan ‘go’ perfects; Piedmontese continuatives involving tenere ‘hold’ + past participle; North Germanic ‘come’ futures);

iii) what we call Dahl’s paradox (Dahl 1997) whereby a construction becomes non-compositional with respect to its component parts while nonetheless entering compositionally into larger units: the Romance/Germanic passé composé (Schaden 2007).

Carlotta Viti (Zurich)

On exceptions to grammaticalization

The fuzziness of grammaticalization may be seen in the fact that this label has been on the one hand extended to phenomena in the domain of pragmatics and discourse analysis where any entrenchment of originally optional features may be observed (Fischer et al. 2004) and on the other hand has been restricted by numerous exceptions, commonly renamed as ‘lexicalizations’, where not even the basic cline from content word to function word holds true (Campbell & Janda 2001). The increasing number of lexicalizations is not only cumbersome for a consistent definition of grammaticalization, but also undermines its very existence as an empirically valid mechanism of language change. We aim at explaining some of these exceptions, so that grammaticalization may appear more unitary in its basic property, here meant to be unidirectionality. Behind the counter-directional changes reported in the literature (Janda 2001: 291-304) we may identify two tendencies, related to the type of language and to the type of target of lexicalizations.

First, the targets of lexicalizations seem to be usually abstract nouns, mass nouns, hyperonyms, such as English teen, Italian ismi, Basque tasun (cf. Newmeyer 2001: 209). This is not implicit in the premises, since opposite changes may also occur, as in the case of the Irish personal pronoun muid “we” from the first person plural ending (Bybee et al. 1994: 13-14), showing that there is nothing structurally wrong in lexicalizations with a concrete target. The overwhelmingly prevalence of abstract lexicalizations is therefore significant, and may be explained with the fact that grammatical morphemes owing to their abstract nature are also adapt to be recruited as source of further abstract lexemes.

Second, the languages in which counter-directional grammatical changes occur turn out to be more often either agglutinative or isolating than fusional; To the isolating type may be referred also English, where many lexicalizations such as to down, to up have been reported. We may argue that in an agglutinating language morphemes are more easily identifiable and therefore also more prone to be separated from their lexical base. Isolating languages, where from a formal point of view no manifest distinction exists among word classes, may also tolerate counter-directional changes better than fusional languages. From this perspective, grammaticalization may be seen in the same way as other constructs of the Western grammatical tradition such as adjective or subject, which often are also less adequate outside the Indo-European family.


Bybee J. & R. Perkins & W. Pagliuca (1994) The evolution of grammar, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Campbell, L. & R. Janda (2001) “Introduction: conceptions of grammaticalization and their problems”, Language Science 2001: 93-112. Fischer, O., M. Norde, H. Perridon (2004) (Eds.) Up and down the cline – the nature of grammaticalization, Amsterdam & Philadelphia, Benjamins. Janda, R. (2001) “Beyond ‘pathways’ and ‘unidirectionality’: on the discontinuity of language transmission and the counterability of grammaticalization”, Language Sciences 23: 265-340. Newmeyer, F. (2001) “Deconstructing grammaticalization”, Language Science 2001: 187-229.

David Willis (Cambridge)

Exaptation and degrammaticalisation within an acquisition-based model of abductive reanalysis

Historical linguists have increasingly come to accept that, while grammaticalisation in general follows a unidirectional pathway creating items more closely integrated phonologically, syntactically and semantically into the grammatical system, a stubborn residue of genuine counterexamples remains, showing precisely the reverse development. One focus of research has therefore shifted to attempting to explain the circumstances under which a linguistic subsystem will undergo grammaticalisation as distinct from whose where it will witness degrammaticalisation (Norde 2009).

This paper contributes to this area by showing that exceptions to the unidirectionality of grammaticalisation are linked to morphological obsolescence, a phenomenon also crucial in exaptation, where ‘grammatical forms which have lost most or all of their semantic content … are put to new uses as semantically distinctive grammatical forms’ (Heine 2003: 168). Poor evidence for acquisition may lead to two outcomes: loss of the relevant material (acquisition failure); or the use of particularly creative hypotheses (abduction) (cf. accelerated change in creolisation). In the second case, the material may come to express an existing grammatical category or give expression to a category not previously encoded in the language.

Change is caused by failure of children to acquire a particular grammatical category. Faced with material that expresses that category, they either interpret it as an instance of some category whose existence they have already posited or else abduce the existence of some new grammatical category. In the light of this interpretation, exaptation and degrammaticalisation can be understood as special cases of familiar processes of reanalysis within an acquisition-based framework of change. I demonstrate how several cases of exaptation and degrammaticalisation can be approached within this general overall framework:

(i) reanalysis of indefinite pronouns (‘something’) as nouns (‘thing’) in Bulgarian (nešto ‘something’ > ‘thing’) and Irish (Old Irish ‘something’ > ‘thing’) results from failure to identify the relavant class of indefinite pronouns at all (Irish) or failure to attribute particular pronouns to their correct class due to morphological opacity / paradigm irregularity (Bulgarian); an alternative analysis, that the items are nouns, is available and not blocked by morophological evidence;

(ii) exaptive reinterpretation of the was : were distinction as expressing polarity in various English dialects (affirmative was vs. negative weren’t) results from failure to acquire the category (feature) of number in the verb as number morphology eroded from Middle English onwards; polarity sensitive morphology in other auxiliaries (cf. affirmative will vs. negative won’t) meant that a polarity feature on verbs had to be posited anyway, hence children failed to acquire the feature of number, attributing its effects instead to the feature of polarity.

Under this view, possible pathways of change are limited by the possible hypotheses that acquirer may make. Where evidence is poor, as in the case of obsolescent grammatical subsystems, these hypotheses are relatively unconstrained and may lead to unexpected developments: assignment of a phenomenon to a new grammatical feature (exaptation) or to an existing lexical feature counter the general trend of grammaticalisation (degrammaticalisation).


Heine, Bernd. 2003. On degrammaticalization. In Barry J. Blake & Kate Burridge (eds.), Historical linguistics 2001, 163–79. Amsterdam: Benjamins. Norde, Muriel. 2009. Degrammaticalization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Esme Winter-Froemel (Tuebingen)

Grammaticalization, (Inter-)Subjectification, and Pragmaticalization: Modelling Changes in Communication

Grammaticalization is frequently defined as an evolution of linguistic forms from lexical to grammatical or from less grammatical to a more grammatical status (cf. Kuryłowicz 1975 [1965]). Similarly, pragmaticalization is traditionally conceived as an evolution from less pragmatical to a more pragmatical meaning (cf. D’Hondt & Defour 2010). These definitions describe the evolution of linguistic forms in the language by making a comparison of two states of a linguistic system (before and after the change in question). In my talk, I will explore an alternative approach to these basic types of change by adopting a usage-based perspective and by analyzing potentially ambiguous utterances, or discourse events, in the evolution of the linguistic forms.

More specifically, I will investigate the diachronic development of the French pronoun on, which involves a process of grammaticalization (its evolution from Lat. homo ‘man’) and then a further change from impersonal meaning to use as a 1Pl subject pronoun. Focusing on the latter change, I will critically discuss if this process can still be seen as a case of grammaticalization.

Drawing on diachronic corpus data from FRANTEXT, I will then analyze contexts of use where both semantic interpretations of on (impersonal and 1Pl meaning) are possible. In these contexts, which can be regarded as bridging contexts (cf. Evans & Wilkins 2000: 549-550, Heine 2002: 85-86, Marchello-Nizia 2006: 253-264), we are dealing with situations of semantic ambiguity. Assuming that ambiguous uses hold a pivotal role in the change examined, I will investigate the functioning of ambiguities at the discourse level, i.e. from the perspectives of the speaker and hearer. Corpus data permits us to single out two basic types of settings in the evolution of on – indirectness and reanalysis – which function in a fundamentally different manner and which highlight basic types of ambiguities in speaker-hearer-interaction (cf. Winter-Froemel & Zirker 2010).

Broadening the perspective, the last part of my talk will address further examples of change from Romance. I will focus on ambiguities at the discourse level which can be observed in these processes of grammaticalization, (inter-)subjectification, and pragmaticalization, and I will argue that a better understanding of the various types of ambiguity may permit us to reconsider these concepts and the relations between them, as well as contribute to a better understanding of the various types of language change.


D’Hondt, U. & T. Defour (2010). Grammaticalization and/or pragmaticalization: which way to go? A cross-linguistic case-study on vraiment and really throughout time.http://webh01.ua.ac.be/gramis/conference/docs/Abstracts_GramiS_2010_revised.pdf (2011-08-22). Evans, N. & D. Wilkins (2000). In the Mind’s Ear: Semantic Extensions of Perception Verbs in Australian Languages. Language 76: 546-592. Heine, B. (2002). On the Role of Context in Grammaticalization. In I. Wischer & G. Diewald, eds., New Reflections on Grammaticalization. Amsterdam/Philadelphia, Benjamins, 83-101. Kuryłowicz, J. (1975 [1965]). The evolution of grammatical categories. In J. Kuryłowicz, Esquisses linguistiques II. Munich, Fink, 38-54. Marchello-Nizia, C. (2006). Grammaticalisation et changement linguistique. Bruxelles, De Boeck-Duculot. Winter-Froemel, E. & A. Zirker (2010). Ambiguität in der Sprecher-Hörer-Interaktion. Linguistische und literaturwissenschaftliche Perspektiven. Zeitschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Linguistik 158: 76-97.

Lars Erik Zeige (HU Berlin)

Discussing ontologies of grammaticalisation processes

Original views on grammaticalisation are based on structuralistic descriptive categories. Linguistic signs change their form and grammatical relations in the language system in a specific succession. The analytic tool ›grammaticalisation‹ proved to be very productive, but since the structure, the function and the process of structure formation and change increasingly are treated as independent analytic entities, the question of the nature of grammaticalisation processes has been raised.

One branch of modelling variation and change, which gained importance during the last decade, makes use of mathematical methods and procedures. Lass (1980, 1997) for example extensively criticises current models of language change and dismisses both causalistic and functionalistic approaches, mainly because of their ontological implications. He concludes that ontologies should be avoided. Therefore the seemingly subject-neutral Theory of dynamic systems is applied for explanatory purposes, while the notion of epigenetic landscapes is evoked mainly for visualisation. Grammaticalisation in this view is then a specific geography in epigenetic landscapes of dynamic linguistic systems, which appears as a set of ›attractors‹ while the system reduplicates.

The talk starts off by introducing and discussing this idea. On the one hand attractors represent a specific type of order and structure formation which is not determinist in nature. On the other hand do attractors – especially when analysed as valleys in an pre-set epigenetic landscape – include teleology. But first of all the question is provoked, what forms the epigenetic landscape itself? Lass, following his »modest ontological approach«, leaves this question deliberately unanswered.

The talk then introduces a position which has the potential to offer a mechanism to grammaticalisation processes that combines the probabilistic nature of Lass’ system processes with an ontological explanation by ascribing these processes to communication in social systems. Following Niklas Luhmann’s (1927–1998) Theory of social systems, the development of linguistic signs takes place by contingent but conditioned selections, which could motivate the appearance of item phases in Lass’ dynamic systems. The aspect of replication in communication would in addition provide arguments to the relevance of frequency in grammaticalisation, the aspect of conditioned selections to the discussion of unidirectionality and gradualness.

If a refinement of the notion of ›grammaticalisation‹ is desired, two perspectives seem worthy of discussion: Should it be based on an understanding of grammaticalisation as a mere analytic instrument of dynamic structuralism or on ontologies that provide complex ties to non-grammatical entities? The talk tries to convey the discussion by tending to the latter.


Lass, Roger: Historical linguistics and language change. Cambridge: Cambridge UP 1997. (Cambridge studies in linguistics 81). Lass, Roger: On explaining language change. Cambridge: Cambridge UP 1980. (Cambridge studies in linguistics 27). Luhmann, Niklas: Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft. 2 Bd. FFM: Suhrkamp 1999. V. a. Kap. 2/III ›Sprache‹, S. 205–230. Luhmann, Niklas: Soziale Systeme. FFM: Suhrkamp 1984. Zeige, Lars Erik: Sprachwandel und soziale Systeme. Hildesheim: Olms 2011. (Germanistische Linguistik Monographien) [t.a.]


Eva Skafte Jensen (Roskilde)

What’s in a noun? The grammaticalization of the indefinite article as a symptom of other changes

The development of the indefinite article in Danish represents an intriguing challenge to theoretical historical linguistics.

In Old Danish around 1000-1100 there is no indefinite article (and instances of the postposed definite article are few and far between), cf. Jensen 2006, 2007ab. In Middle Danish around 1400, the use of the indefinite article is widespread and it is found in almost all the same contexts as in Modern Danish, cf. Jensen 2007ab.

In isolation, the development of an indefinite article from the numeral en/et ‘one’ is a clear case of grammaticalization in the sense of Meillet, and it displays several of the characteristics of the well known cline as described by e.g. Lehmann (1985) and Heine (2003): semantic bleaching, phonetic reduction, change in morphosyntactic function etc.

However, this change so close to the textbook example on grammaticalization, is not nearly as interesting as the changes surrounding the development of the article. To mention one thing, the noun before and after the development of the indefinite article is not typologically identical: In the time before the indefinite article, noun phrases consisting of bare nouns had the ability to build referential noun phrases. After the development of the indefinite article, bare nouns had lost this property, cf. Jensen 2007ab, in press. As in Modern Danish, the syntactic-semantic potential of bare nouns in the 15th century was greatly restricted to non-referential contexts. This development could be described in at least two ways: 1) as a change in the properties of the noun, and 2) as a change from NP-structure to DP-structure.

One of the reasons for the great terminological confusion surrounding the framework of grammaticalization stems from the historical linguists urge to record and describe all of the immensely interesting phenomena, like the ones just mentioned, obviously of a grammatical nature.

In my paper, I’ll discuss these issues and I’ll argue in favour of reserving the term grammaticalization to processes like the one illustrated by the indefinite article itself. The other changes could instead be described as changes of regrammation, a term suggested by Henning Andersen (2006).


Andersen, Henning (2006). Grammation, regrammation and degrammation. Tense loss in Russian. Diachronica 23. pp. 231-258. Heine, Bernd (2003). Grammaticalization. In: Joseph, Brian D. & Richard D. Janda (eds.): The handbook of historical linguistics. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 575-601. Jensen, Eva Skafte (2006). Far thæn man kunu ær børn hafwær – on the use of demonstratives, nouns and articles in the Scanic Law of Old Danish. Amsterdamer Beiträge zur ältere Germanistik 62. pp. 123-149. Jensen, Eva Skafte (2007a). Om udviklingen af den ubestemte artikel i dansk. I: Birkelund, Merete, Susana S. Fernández, Alexandra Kratschmer & Henning Nølke (red.): Ny forskning i grammatik. Fællespublikation 14. Syddansk Universitetsforlag. pp. 145-162. Jensen, Eva Skafte (2007b). Der var engang en mand - om markeret og umarkeret artikelbrug i moderne dansk og gammeldansk. I: Jørgensen, Henrik & Peter Widell (red.): Det bedre argument. Festskrift til Ole Togeby. Århus: Forlaget Wessel & Huitfeldt, & Nordisk Institut. pp. 299-320. Jensen, Eva Skafte (in press). Nominativ i gammelskånsk - afvikling og udviklinger. København: Universitets-Jubilæets danske Samfund. Lehmann, Christian (1985). Grammaticalization: Synchronic Variation and Diachronic Change. Lingua e stile 20/3. pp. 303-318.

Peter Öhl (Freiburg)

Formalist and Functionalist Explanations of Grammaticalisation – an Integrational Approach

This paper compares and discusses two mainstream explanations of grammaticalisation processes: Generative accounts regarding them as reflections of structural reanalysis through parametric change during language acquisition, resulting in recategorisation of lexical elements as functional heads in syntactic structure. And functionalist approaches that focus on performance, arguing that speakers tend to either improve expressiveness or economise speech production by varying the application of the rules of grammar, which may result in conventionalisation and finally even change the rules of grammar or create new functional elements.

Our aim is to integrate the advantages of both approaches. Basically, it is argued that performance based conventionalisation plays a central role for grammaticalisation by providing the linguistic preconditions for ecategorisation of lexical elements as functional ones, or semi-functional elements as fully functional ones. However, changes of the basic rule system of grammar, which includes the parametric lexicalisation of functional heads in syntactic structure, cannot be changed but through structural reanalysis during language acquisition. On the other hand, the input for language acquisition is speech, which may be created through manipulation of the functional rules of the grammatical system by the speaker. The part of grammar that is accessible to manipulation by the speaker is called 'fringe-grammar' in generative theory.

Thus the central claim will be: in processes of grammaticalisation, change of the core grammar is often initialised by functional variation at the fringe. The whole process may include several steps of alternate performance based and parametric changes.

Our model will be exemplified by two case studies: firstly, the rise of periphrastic inflection in Germanic and Romance; secondly, the development of complementisers in Germanic and Romance, as compared to the system in Persian.