Synopsis of Hopper & Traugott Chap. 5

Handout for LING 319/519, SARS 319/519


  1. Unidirectionality This chapter looks systematically at the issue of Unidirectionality of grammaticalization, i.e. the hypothesis that once grammaticalization begins, it goes forward inexorably toward final morphologization even though there may not necessarily be an end stage. That is, grammaticalization goes forward and does not go back; but it may not necessarily reach the complete and final state we recognize as (e.g.) morphologization of a lexical item (e.g.) into a morpheme. But retreat is not possible.

    General Principles of Unidirectionality.

  2. Paths of grammaticalization, and Meillet's suggestions:

    Example of Greek future tha which Meillet says is

    lexical item --> morphology

    In fact (as H&T point out repeatedly) this is not direct: instead, it is more like "lexical item in certain highly constrained local contexts is reanalyzed as having morphological or syntactic functions, or

    lexical item in specific contexts--> syntax --> morphology

    A: item becomes syntactically fixed,
    a "construction"
    B: eventually fuses morphologically
    Assumption: A precedes B, not vice versa

    Nothing deterministic about this:

    Some people would like to claim that once something starts, its end is implied or can be expected, and progress is inexorable or inevitable. No evidence for this; there are strong constraints on how change occurs; and on directionality. Compare Sapir's notions of drift which is different, perhaps a more abstract idea about change, or "a metacondition on the way in which the grammar of a language as a whole will change. (R. Lakoff 1972).


    On generalization, note some differences: some say generalization leads to weakening of semantic content, with phonetic erosion. But H&T don't agree; instead see

    loss of older, ... more concrete meanings and development of newer, more abstract ones that [...] cancel out the loss.

    Refer to previous discussion of this (more informativeness, pragmatic strengthening.) generalization means increase of polysemies and/or increase of range of meanings of a morpheme (Kurylowicz).

    Generalization of Meaning

    What constraints on kinds of meanings that are subject go grammaticalization?

    Lexical fields: there are semantic relations that occur in lexical fields , e.g.

    Usually lexical items chosen are general, superordinate and not specialized, so go, come might be used, but not "ooze, flutter". (But see the Tamil aspectual verbs, which start out with some general ones, but gradually involve more specialized ones.) What are chosen are basic words of a field, a.k.a. hyponyms Or, a form is less basic, but is then generalized, and then grammaticalized: Lat. ambulare --> aller (French) --> AUX Nous allons voir ca "We're going to see that, i.e. we'll see about that!"

    General lex. items then take on more and more generalized functions, as used in more and more contexts: wider distribution, more polysemies. Former inferences are grammaticalized.

    Difference with lexicalization changes, where some meanings become narrowed, e.g. cf. German sterben 'die' vs. Eng. starve 'die of hunger.' Dispreferred items (taboo items etc.) become narrower and narrower.

    grammaticalization does not give evidence of this narrowing, so this absence predicts constraints on possible developments (see examples of negative phrases and negative incorporation, pg. 98, where extant negative form is negative of the weaker member; can be strengthened by an implicature cancelable upward to stronger meaning.)

    Another constraint: avoidance of homonymic clash, so if two lexical items 'fall together' (bec. of some phonolog devel) one or another will be replaced, esp. if meanings are opposite. Most homonymic clash is lexical not grammatical, so multiple grammatical homonymies can exist, and without problems:

    Cf. English grammatical morpheme -th Can mean:

    1. State of being s.t., e.g. dead/death, broad/breadth, wide/width, long/length, true/truth. etc.

    2. 'Ordinal' number: thirteenth, fifty-fourth

    3. Other possibilities?

    The two meanings can be homonymic and not clash, because they occur in very different contexts. Also true of the English -s which functions as:

    No problem with homonomy: John's cats sleep a lot, while his dog chases cars.

  3. Generalization of grammatical function As gramm forms develop, they will develop more and larger range of meaningful morphosyntactic purposes:

    Cf. Also Finnish example of reanlysis (singular agentive N's) then generalized to new environments via:

    Spread along a hierarchy of NP's that are more subject-like to less subject-like NP's? (Timberlake) This hierarchy would probably be unlikely to be reversed (H&T).

  4. Decategorialization as a process whereby something that is clearly marked (either by morphology or by function) as a member of one gramm category (e.g. N, V, Adj) shifts to be more marked or functioning as a member of another category.

    In lgs. with lots of morphology, N's can be determined to be N's by their morphology and the affixes etc. they can take. Same with V's. In a language without much overt morphology, what is a N or V is known by the function they perform, so when an item in English like prepositional "off" is used as a verb ( Off the pigs! a Black Panther slogan of the 60's and 70's) we know it's a verb from its function and context. Often this is along a cline from major to minor, e.g.

    major category (--> adjective/adverb) --> minor category.
    H&T give examples of shift from major to minor as more important(?) than my example of shift from minor to major; e.g. development of Eng. while as a conjunction instead of as a N. When used as a conjunction, while cannot:

    These all negative; positively, while has gained ability to link clauses and indicate temporal relationships in discourse, which it couldn't do as ordinary N. So this is not decay or deterioration but functional shift from one role to another. Trappings of noun morphology are thus discarded, since not needed.

    Compare development of Tamil/Kannada postpositions from verbs, such as paattu from the verb paar meaning 'see.'

  5. Development of Nominal Categories and of Verbal Categories: two typical paths. These are clines:

    But do we have unidirectionality along the cline? Are the clines continua, or rather clusters at points with grammatical properties resembling ("family resemblance") certain other kinds of things:

    Clusters are not rigid, fixed points, but gathering places, like iron filings around magnets.

  6. Period of Overlap between older and newer functions, so not a situation with everything lined up like cars of a train. Some ppl. use term 'chaining' to show non-linearity; H&T prefer 'layering' allowing for multiple origins of a grm form, i.e.


    Remember that once embarked upon, grammaticalization does not have an inevitable result; may be arrested etc. We can't work back from any one form to see a clear path; and we can't illustrate a particular cline with only one form. (Not enough historical record, they say; I would bet we might find examples in Tamil with its long time depth, hs). What is important is the issue of directionality between adjacent forms on the cline not demo. of complete sequence of events for a given form.

  7. What are some typical clines? Lehmann 1985 has given following:

  8. Processes participating in unidirectionality

  9. Synchronic Result of Unidirectionality

    Persistence of older forms and constructions paralleling new ones can be called layering (or variability (!) As new forms emerge, older ones remain, half-buried, i.e. layered (think archeology!).

    See examples (p. 124) for different ways in English to express tense and aspect; assume that the most bonded forms are the oldest, the more periphrastic and less reduced forms are newer.

    Syntactic examples from Estonian (could also be German, Russian) with two kinds of relative clauses:

    In Estonian the pre-NP embedded type is 'older, more learned' but more modern language uses a Np+rel.ppl type. Both coexist.

    Presumably these 2 types have a pragmatic difference; others may reflect older historical layers of (e.g.) OV syntax instead of newer VO syntax.

    More counterexamples, from lexicalization? H&T reject. But grmn as a unidirectional process, and lexicalization as non-unidirectional, may intersect.

    Another problem: the non-intersection of Output2 and Output1 and the attempts of speakers2 to repair or cover-up their "mistakes" when their output doesn't match. Known as hypercorrection. May be typical of adults rather than children? May obscure or confuse attempts to detect abductive changes (reanalysis).
last modified 1/26/01