Approaches to Historical Syntax: Abstracts

Grammaticalization as exaptation: the case of Germanic V/2

Ellen Brandner

It is well-known that many languages exhibit a second position phenomena in the sense that on the left edge of the (root) clause there is in second position either a finite verb or other functional material, preceded by some word-like material or a constituent. While for clitics (and clitic-like auxiliaries as in Serbo-Croatian) in second position, there are reasonable phonological motivations for this additional movement, this cannot apply for "real" V/2, as it is found in Germanic, since (i) finite verbs can occur in this position without phonological support (in Y/N-questions or exceptional V/1 declaratives) and (ii) the movement is constrained in such a way that only constituents may appear there, indicating that the position is syntactically defined as a Spec-position, and thus the movement cannot be traced back to a purely phonological requirement. Although the syntactic details of the construction vary considerably, the general pattern of XP Vfin seems to be very stable both across languages and across time, i.e. if a language has developed a V/2 strategy it seems to be in some sense  the "optimal" way to fulfill an interface requirement. The question of course is: what is the interface requirement?

In this talk it will be argued that the V/2 construction in Germanic is in fact a strategy that is used to encode the Force-value every root clause has to be specified for (i.e. declarative, interrogative.). The idea is that the finite verb itself cannot encode the Force-value (there is no inflection or particle (like e.g. in Korean) that would indicate that the clause has to be interpreted as declarative or interrogative), but as a functionally marked element it can acquire a value in the right syntactic configuration and that is the Spec-head configuration obtained via XP-movement. So the claim is that a WH-Phrase moved to the Spec-Position will endow the clause with an [+interr] value via a dynamic process of Spec-head-agreement (Rizzi 1991), any other constituent with [+decl]. The additional position obtained via this mechanism can then be used for information structural needs (topics, focus etc). The immediate prediction is that V/1 structures in Germanic are underspecified  w.r.t. the Force-value. That this prediction is correct will be shown by the fact that (i) these clauses can never occur in embedded contexts but instead have to acquire their value by non-syntactic means (i.e. intonation, discourse accommodation etc).

Concerning grammaticalisation, it will be argued that Anderson's revival of Wackernagel's idea that the movement of the prosodically clictic-like verb is correct and in fact at the beginning of the development. So the structure with an additional (highest) head is motivated by prosodic requirements, however in V/2 languages this structural configuration has been "exapted" in the sense of Lass (1997) (developing ideas from evolution theory, Gould/Vrba (1982). That means, the structural precondition for the development of V/2 can be located in the phonological component, but the historical outcome is (i) a syntactic device for encoding Force-values and (ii) an additional position that serves information structural requirements The hypothesis will be tested against languages that showed V/2 construction to a limited extent in their history but did not develop to full V/2 languages (English, French). Of special interest is the case of Middle Welsh (Willis (1998) and Old Irish (Doherty 2000). These were full V/2 language but compensated the loss of V/2 with a particle system, still active in these languages.

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The origins of Estonian word order

Martin Ehala

Department of General and Applied Linguistics, Tallinn University

Estonian is known as a free word order language. In main clauses SVX and XVS are equally frequent (about 25%), which indicates that Estonian has the V2 phenomenon. What concerns the basic word order, then Estonian is most often considered a SVO language. However, in subordinate clauses, Estonian shows a quite high proportion of verb final order (about 20%). The picture becomes more complex when the position of the auxiliary verb (I) in verbal complexes will be taken into account: Estonian seems to have a marked SIOV order rather than typical SOVI characteristic to German that has influenced Estonian over centuries. Knowing that Baltic-Finnic languages have a SIVO order, the Estonian marked word order may be due to an impartial adoption of the German word order. Alternatively, it may be caused by the language renewal campaign in the beginning of 20th century (one of the goals of the campaign was to replace the SOV in Estonian subordinate clauses by SVO). To clarify the causes of the Estonian marked word order, the paper gives an overview of evolution of the word order of written Estonian from 18th to 21st century with the main focus on the consequences of the language renewal in 20th century.

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Recovering the syntax of dead languages

Thórhallur Eythórsson

Department of Linguistics, University of Manchester

Scholars working on languages attested only in texts are faced with the problem of possible accidental gaps in the corpus. This problem raises the methodological issue of the amount of linguistic data needed to draw conclusions from about the grammar of dead languages, including their syntax. Clearly, the more text material is available, the less the chances are that lack of documented strings is due to accidental gaps, and the higher the chances that the data are representative of the language in question. Traditional philological wisdom holds that "one example is no example" (cf. the Latin slogan "unus testis - nullus testis"). Contrary to this, I defend the view that what really matters in determining the status of attested syntactic phenomena is not the quantity but the quality of the relevant examples. Even for well-documented languages like Old English and Old Icelandic the analysis of written data in terms of statistical frequency runs the risk of overlooking rare but important patterns which may have been perfectly grammatical for the speakers of these languages but which, for some reason, are underrepresented in the texts. Although seemingly banal, this view has often been disregarded in historical syntax, yielding skewed results based on mindless statistics. I argue that the occurrence of even a single, philologically and linguistically unambiguous example of a particular structure may suffice to establish that it is part of the grammar of the language in question. So, for instance, in Old Icelandic the syntactic status of oblique subject-like NPs in "impersonal" constructions is debated. In Modern Icelandic comparable oblique NPs are generally analyzed as subjects since they behave like nominative subjects in every respect except for agreement. The Old Icelandic evidence bearing on this issue, however, is both scarce and rather ambiguous; therefore, some of the subject tests that can be applied in the modern language are inconclusive for the older stage. Nevertheless, a handful of examples arguably demand an analysis according to which the oblique subject-like NP is a subject. Conversely, there are no cases that demand an object analysis. The clinching argument for a subject analysis involves control infinitives with a missing oblique NP (PRO). Although few in number, the crucial examples must on theoretical grounds be considered valid evidence for the subjecthood of the oblique subject-like NPs in Old Icelandic, given that only subjects, and not objects, can be omitted in such constructions. The potential significance of rare syntactic patterns will be further illustrated with more examples from Old Icelandic and other dead languages. Finally, a parallel issue in child language will be pointed out.

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The short-distance reanalysis hypothesis: Phonologically elided events, (un)selected paths, and the premodals

Remus Gergel

University of Tübingen, SFB-441 Research Center, Nauklerstr. 35, 72074 Tuebingen/Germany

This paper investigates the hypothesis that the English Modals underwent a short-distance reanalysis in the transition from Middle to Modern English. In support of this hypothesis, I provide evidence that the modals originated in a Pr-node in Middle English and thus had a shorter distance to move in syntactic terms to reanalyze to INFL/T than standardly assumed.

The reanalysis theory as developed in the wake of Lightfoot (1979) claims that the premodals cataclysmically changed their status from lexical to functional during the sixteenth century (1), and that the change became visible only later (Roberts 1993:310). The main goal of the present paper is to argue based on data obtained from the second version of the Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Middle English for a shorter, and less spectacular reanalysis, but also one able to cope with significant problems of the standard version. An outlook of this process is shown in (2), where Pr stands for the generalization of the light verb projection vP (Bowers 2001, 2002). Syntactically, this refinement of the reanalysis is further specified by capitalizing on the interaction with elements within the VP-domain such as a transitivity node and by considering light verbs in ME and ModE. The semantic motivation correlates with the syntactic view (Gergel 2001 and sources therein).

(1) Lexical-to-functional reanalysis (irrelevant projections omitted):

[CP [TP tense/mood affix [vP [VP1 Modal/Do [VP2/PP/NP <optional>]]]]] Þ

[CP [TP Modal/Do [vP [VP <obligatory>]]]]

(2) The short-distance reanalysis (sketch):

[CP [TP tense/mood affix [PrP Modal/Do [VP/PP/NP<obligatory (syntax, semantics)>]]]] Þ

[CP [TP Modal/Do [PrP [VP <obligatory (syntax, semantics)>]]]]


I concentrate on two exemplary and quantitatively significant phenomena in texts preceding the sixteenth century since this is the period in which, following the null-hypothesis for the sake of the argument, the EM should be full lexical verbs. One is the selection of directional prepositional phrases (paths) without a "mediating" verb of motion for purposes of thematic assignment; the other is the licensing of verb-phrase ellipsis. In the standard reanalysis, these two issues are taken as indication of full-lexical behavior in the former case, but - if analyzed in parallel at all - must be conceded a strong functional property in the latter. Both recent research on ellipses (Lobeck 1995, Johnson 1999, López & Winkler 2000, Winkler p.c.) and specific diachronic studies on English (Warner 1992, Higgins 2000) consolidate the insight that there is no way around taking the elliptical structures as indication for quasi-functional status of their licensers. On the short-distance reanalysis, the two very different phenomena converge in pointing to the existence of PrP. I also support the quasi-functional view for the premodals with wh-extraction examples from ellipsis sites, where the extracted wh-phrases must be an argument of the elided verb. Further puzzles for the standard theory will also be accounted for: (A) the lack of passives with the premodals; (B) the unexplained syntactic parallelism between the former aspectual auxiliary do (Denison 1985, Han & Kroch 2000) and the modals; (C) the cross-linguistic overlap of diachronic changes between tense/aspectual and modal markers (Bybee & al. 1994).


Bowers, J. S. (2001). Predication. In: M. Baltin and Chr. Collins (eds.) The Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Theory, 299-333. Oxford: Blackwell.

Bowers, J. S. (2002). Transitivity. In Linguistic Inquiry 33, 183-224.

Bybee, J.; Perkins, R.; and Pagliuca, W. (1994). The Evolution of Grammar, Tense, Aspect, Modality in the Languages of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Denison, D. (1985). The Origins of Periphrastic DO, Ellegard and Visser Reconsidered. In: Eaton R. et al. (eds.), Papers from the 4th International Conference On Historical Linguistics, Amsterdam, 45-60.

Gergel, R. (2001). From simple predicators to clausal functors: The English Modals through time and the primitives of modality. In: K. von Heusinger and K. Schwabe (eds.) Sentence Type and Specificity. Berlin, ZAS Papers in Linguistics 24, 125-143.

Han, C. & Kroch, A. (2000). The rise of do-support in English: implications for clause structure. In: Kroch (2002).

Higgins, F. R. (2000). Vicarious do and the auxiliary. Ms. University of Massachusetts.

Johnson, K. (1999). When verb phrases go missing. Glot International 2, 3-9.

Kroch, A. (2002). Preparatory materials for "Language transmission and morphosyntactic change." Seminar, University of Tuebingen, 2002. Available on-line version under:

Lightfoot, D. (1979). Principles of Diachronic Syntax. Cambridge: CUP.

Lobeck, A. (1995). Ellipsis. Functional Heads, Licensing and Identification. Oxford: UP.

López L. and Winkler, S. (2000). Focus and topic in VP-Anaphora constructions. Linguistics 38, 623-664.

Roberts, I. (1993). Verbs and Diachronic Syntax. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Warner, A. R. (1992). "Elliptical and Impersonal Constructions: Evidence for Auxiliaries in Old English. In: F. Colman (ed.) Evidence from Old English: Material and Theoretical Bases for Reconstruction. Edinburgh Studies in the English Language, 2, 178-210.

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Some issues concerning the origin of English adjectival periphrastic comparatives

Victorina González Díaz

University of Manchester/University of Vigo

The present paper aims at clarifying some issues concerning the origin of adjectival periphrastic comparatives in English. The standard literature on the topic notes that inflectional comparison was the earliest comparative strategy deployed in English. The origins of the periphrastic comparatives are, however, less certain. According to early commentators (Pound 1901: 3, Wright 1913: 145), English periphrastic forms are calques on Romance (French or Latin) periphrastic comparatives introduced in the ME period. By contrast, more recent scholars (Knüpfer 1921, Curme 1931: 503, Mitchell 1985: 84) trace the origin of periphrastic comparatives back to OE. These explanations, nonetheless, required further substantiation, as they were based on the linguists' personal observations and/or selective reading of OE and ME texts, and not on a statistically representative collection of periphrastic forms in these periods.

The flourishing of computerized corpora in the last decades of the twentieth century fostered the possibilities of such quantitative research. Three corpus-based works make explicit mention of the origin of English periphrastic comparatives: Kytö (1996) and Kytö and Romaine (1997, 2000). Their account of the origin of periphrastic forms, nevertheless, does not provide any new insight to the issue, as it falls back on the explanations put forward by previous scholarship:

(1) "The periphrastic construction first appeared in the thirteenth century, more probable under Latin than French influence. At the same time, the construction seems to have been of native origin and arisen from the need for emphasis and clarity felt by the speakers" (Kytö 1996: 144)

The present paper also tackles this controversial issue from a corpus-based perspective (Brooklyn, Helsinki, Toronto Corpus and those Latin texts from which the relevant works in these OE corpora were translated). It provides evidence to suggest that English periphrastic comparatives are in fact a native development which resulted from the reanalysis of adverbial intensifiers ma, swiþor and bet occurring with passive participles in adjectival function in OE (see (2) below):

(2a) Se wæs ma in ciriclecum þeodscipum 7 in lifes bylwitnesse gelæred, þon he from wære in worulde þingum (BED.EH.)

(2b) Ac hie wæron micle swiþor gebrocede on þæm þrim gearum mid ceapes cwilde 7 monna (CHRON.A.)

Thus, the development of the construction can be captured as follows:



 This syntactic pattern spread by analogy to fully-fledged adjectives (see (4) below):

(4) Hi forseoð hi selfe læs on þysum middanearde þa þe þæncað, þæt hi syn sylfe ma gode þonne oðre men (GREG.D.)

In addition, the paper analyses the factors that may have had an influence on the disappearance of bet and swiþor as comparative particles and suggests that it is these latter's restricted syntactic and semantic combinatorial possibilities that led to the establishment of ma as the only periphrastic comparative particle in English from ME onwards.

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On the Estonian Accusative

(Poster presentation)

Katrin Hiietam

University of Manchester

This paper argues for the existence of the accusative case in Estonian. In the typological literature, accusative is traditionally used to refer to the case of the direct object in highly transitive constructions where both the subject and object are definite.

In Estonian Linguistics, the prevalent view of the 20th century has been that there is no accusative case included in the case system (e.g. EKGI, II 1993, 1995, Nemvalts 1996, Rajandi & Metslang 1979, Rajandi 1999). Objects in highly transitive constructions have been referred to either as genitive (in singular) or nominative (in singular and plural) depending on the syntactic environment. Such a view has been taken regardless of the fact that historically accusative has been listed in grammars of Estonian as one of the possible cases for objects (see Kont 1963, Rätsep 1977). The claims against accusative have been based on the evidence that there is no specific morphological accusative marking for either full NPs or pronouns. This idea was put forward by Saareste in 1926 who argued that it would not be justified to introduce a new case purely on semantic grounds without any formal characteristics (from Kont 1963: 21).

This paper illustrates that there is syntactic evidence for including the accusative in the list of Estonian case system. The criteria used here are the syntactic behaviour of the case of definite objects.

The object in telic constructions stands in a case that resembles morphological genitive in singular:

(1) (telic, obj definite)








'The child fed the dog (so that the dog had had enough to eat).'

In a morphological genitive phrase, both the noun and its modifier stand in the genitive, as in (2):

(2) GEN







'the food of two dogs'

However, when in plural, the object in the same construction stands in a nominative like case, (3):

(3) (telic, obj definite)







'The child fed the dogs (so that the dogs had had enough to eat).'

In addition, when the object NP contains a numeral, the case on the object noun is partitive and not genitive or nominative:

(4) (telic, obj definite)










'The child fed two dogs (so that the dogs had had enough to eat).'

On the basis of the evidence, Estonian can be said to have a separate case for definite objects, which happens to be identical to genitive in singular and nominative in plural. Typologically, the case associated with definite objects is referred to as accusative. Hence the most reasonable solution is that there exists an accusative case in Estonian, although it only becomes apparent on the syntactic level. With this, Estonian shows case syncretism, a phenomenon familiar from several Indo-European languages, e.g. Russian or German (see Reime 1993:89-90).


Selected References

EKG I, II: Erelt et al. Eesti keele grammatika I Morfoloogia. Sõnamoodustus, II Süntaks. Lisa: Kiri. Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia Eesti Keele Instituut. Tallinn, 1995 (I) and 1993 (II).

Kont, K. (1963). Käändsõnaline objekt läänemeresoome keeltes. Eesti NSV Teaduste Akadeemia Keele ja Kirjanudse Instituudi Uurimused IX. Tallinn.

Rätsep, H. (1977). Eesti keele ajalooline morfoloogia. Tartu: Tartu Riiklik Ülikool, eesti keele kateeder.


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The syntax of negated and other quantified NPs in Middle English: Evidence from two genres

Richard Ingham

School of Linguistics & Applied Language Studies, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 218, Reading RG6 6AA, UK

This paper considers the suggestion in Kroch & Taylor (2000) that Middle English may have had a rule moving quantified objects leftwards to precede finite and/or nonfinite verbs. It is found that the rate of direct object preposing in EME religious prose is non-distinct between quantified (including negated) or ordinary direct objects. In LME religious prose, however, only quantified (and normally negated objects) preposed. EME religious verse likewise shows a high proportion of OV order with all types of object NP, whereas in LME religious verse the proportion of negated objects in OV constructions was substantially higher than the remaining instances of OV with ordinary objects. Quantified objects in OV

constructions were virtually absent. Both genres indicate that the grammar of ME underwent a change after which only negated(marginally other quantified) objects could prepose. Before that point any object could prepose. A rule of preposing quantified objects in EME is thus unnecessary. Evidence is found, however, for the retention of OV with negated objects, as claimed by van der Wurff (1999) and Ingham (2000)and therefore for a specific process of Neg movement in such cases.

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Scandinavian experiencer constructions: A diachronic perspective

Dianne E. Jonas

Dept. of Linguistics, Yale University, PO Box 208236, New Haven, CT 06520

In contrast to Modern Icelandic, modern spoken Faroese has recently, in the spoken language at least, lost a previously common pattern involving verbs with experiencer subjects, as shown in the 18th century Faroese example given in (1). The example in (1) is of a type of "complex" experiencer construction involving a dative experiencer subject of the verb tykja and a clausal complement (many such verbs alternate with raising constructions in the absence of a dative experiencer subject).







so at ...




so much


like that...

'I seem to you to behave so much like that...'(Faroese)

In (1), the experiencer subject is assigned dative and the subject of the non-finite complement clause is assigned accusative case. The same case-marking pattern holds in simple experiencer constructions in Faroese where the theme argument is assigned accusative case. This latter construction in Faroese is unstable. For younger speakers, the common verb dámar 'like', the case pattern alternates between Dat-Acc and Nom-Acc.

(2) a.







(2) b.          








In contrast with Faroese, both the above patterns have remained stable throughout the history of Icelandic where the theme argument of experiencer verbs is assigned nominative case.

(3) a.













(3) b.










Complex experiencer constructions such as those in ((1) and (3a)) are no longer present in spoken Faroese, either with an experiencer subject or the raising alternative without an experiencer subject. Whereas the Mainland Scandinavian languages have lost both simple and complex experiencer constructions but have retained the raising option (4):




[ t  vara   







Experiencer constructions in Modern Icelandic are unchanged from those in Old Icelandic, whereas in both Faroese and Mainland Scandinavian there has been a partial or complete loss of these constructions. In Mainland Scandinavian this loss can be attributed to a general collapse of the system of morphological case. However, I show that the loss of these constructions in Faroese cannot simply be attributed to loss of the morphological case, as the system of morphological case remains largely intact.  Further, in Faroese, there is no uniform loss of dative subject experiencer constructions. Simple experiencer constructions with dative subjects (2a) still exist in the spoken language, whereas complex experiencer constructions (and a raising verb option) no longer do. I show that the Faroese verbs involved in complex experiencer

constructions have been replaced by a semantically similar verb halda 'think' that alternates with experiencer predicates in the older texts. On the other hand, the partial loss, or change in the case-marking pattern, of simple experiencer constructions in Faroese is compared with the history of similar verbs in English. In both languages, the Dat-Acc pattern, a change from earlier Dat-Nom for such verbs precedes their loss or change in case-marking to Nom-Acc.

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Arguments and ambiguity: A look at Icelandic leigja 'rent'

Margrét Jónsdóttir


The Icelandic verb leigja will be considered here as an example of a verb exhibiting divergent syntactic behaviour dependent on semantic criteria as in (1).

In (1) A, the source appears as the subject Jón, whereas the goal is expressed by the indirect object Björn. Note that in contrast to e.g. English dative alternation, the goal is not expressed as a prepositional phrase in verbs like leigja. In (1) B, on the other hand, the subject expresses the goal, the source surfacing in a prepositional phrase. In both sentences the direct object is the verb's theme as commonly defined. Thus, there is a mirror relationship between (1), A and B; an identical purport is expressed from the two varying points of view.

A considerable number of verbs exhibit the behaviour exemplified by (1) A. Examples are færa, gefa, selja, senda, úthluta, all verbs of change of possession or verbs of sending or carrying. Verbs behaving like the example in (1) B include e.g. græ^Ûa, hljóta, &#64258;iggja, ö^Ûlast, all verbs indicating change of possession. Very few verbs, on the other hand, behave like leigja. Cases in point are 'get', lána 'lend', and possibly ljá 'lend' and erfa 'inherit'.

One may thus ask how one and the same verb comes to exhibit the properties described above. An answer seems suggested by the fact that leaving out the optional arguments of (1), A and B, leaves us with the ambiguous sentences as in (2) with no way of telling whether the subject is goal or source. This ambiguity persists in the associated verbal noun as in (3) with Jón as source or goal. The same ambiguity characterizes compounds such as íbú^Ûarleiga (<- íbú^Û (G-ar) + leiga).

Finally can a marked/unmarked relationship be established for the syntactic patterns of (1), A and B, such that one can be seen as derived from the other? There seems to be no simple way of doing this and one may further ask if historical considerations can prove revealing in cases like this.

(1) A:       








the flat-A

'Jón rents the flat to Björn.'

(1) B:








the flat-A



'Björn rents the flat from Jón.'

(2) A:






the flat-A

'Jón rents the flat.'

(2) B:






the flat-A

'Björn rents the flat.'












the flat-D




'Jón's renting of the flat is for profit.'


N = Nominative, A = Accusative, D = Dative, G = Genitive


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The labile syntactic type in a diachronic perspective: the case of Vedic

Leonid Kulikov

Leiden University, Faculty of Arts, VTW, PO Box 9515, NL-2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands

The ancient Indo-European verbal syntax, as attested in early Vedic Sanskrit (foremost, in the language of the most ancient Vedic text, Rgveda), exhibits numerous examples of the labile syntactic pattern: several verbal forms can show valence alternation with no formal change in the verb; cf. pres. svádate 'he makes sweet' / 'he is sweet'; perf. vâv? dhú? 'they have grown' (intr.) / 'they have increased' (tr.).

Labile patterning in finite middle forms results, in particular, from the polysemous character of the middle diathesis, which can express either the self-beneficiant meaning with no valence change, or an intransitivizing derivation, such as passive, reflexive, anticausative (decausative).

The labile syntax of the early Vedic perfect seems to originate in the predominant intransitivity of the Proto-Indo-European perfect, of which some traces can still be found in early Vedic and Homeric Greek. Originally, active perfect forms could probably be employed both intransitively and transitively, although the former usages are likely to prevail. In the historical period the newly-built perfect middle forms have taken over the intransitive function, and the transitive-causative usages of active perfects became more frequent, but active perfects are still quite common in the (more archaic) intransitive usages in the time of the Rgveda.

In later periods, in the language of the second most ancient text, the Atharvaveda, and, further, in Vedic prose, we observe the decay of the labile type, accompanied by the increase of productivity of two valency-changing categories, causatives with the suffix -áya- and passives with the suffix -yá-.

I will argue that the disappearance of the labile patterning strongly correlates with the rise and development of these new categories (which are not yet well-established in early Vedic), on the one hand, and with the loss of the relevance of the highly polyfunctional middle diathesis, on the other.

The analysis of the development of lability in Vedic may uncover general mechanisms of the rise and decay of the labile syntactic type and thus furnish important evidence for its typological study.

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Directed drift: Beyond borrowing and interference

Charles N. Li

University of California, Santa Barbara


Yuzhi Shi

National University of Singapore

It is well-known that Mandarin Chinese, the standard language based in Northern China, is typologically odd. Among the myriad paradoxical features one can cite from the perspective of Greenberg's syntactic typology, the most unusual one is that as a verb-medial language, Mandarin Chinese strongly disfavors having in excess of a single post-verbal constituent in sentence structure. In fact, the language takes such extreme measure to avoid having more than one post-verbal constituent that it has evolved some semantically anomalous constructions. For example,




- le


- ge

- zhongtou



3rd. sg





- hour



"S/he watched television for three hours."

"san-ge-zhongtou-de dianshi" is a single constituent of which the head is "dianshi" 'television'. The sub-constitutent modifying the head is "san-ge-zhongtou" 'three hours'. This sub-constituent is marked by the particle "de", the multi-functional grammatical particle in Mandarin that marks the genitive phrase, the relative clause, the nominalized clause and the associative phrase. However, the entire post-verbal constituent, "san-ge-zhongtou-de dianshi" is semantically anomalous because the modifying/associative component is not semantically related to the head. Instead, this modifying/associative component denotes the duration of the action, "kan" 'watch'.

Why does a language evolve a semantically anomalous construction? Why does a verb-medial language avoid placing more than one constituent after the verb? Why is Chinese so bizarre from a typological perspective? We have a unified answer to these questions: Northern Chinese changed its morphysyntactic structures under the influence of verb-final languages during the past two thousand years. How?

During the past ten years, we have been engaging in an NSF funded project tracing and describing the evolution of the morphosyntactic structures of Chinese over the past two millennia with an enormous database of vernacular texts from each century of the two thousand years. It is our conclusion that much of the syntactic structures of modern Mandarin Chinese evolved as a consequence of prolonged contact with speakers of verb-final languages. A key factor of this prolonged contact is that for thirteen of the past twenty centuries, Northern China was ruled by speakers of verb-final languages, who, contrary to popular myth, were not simply absorbed by a sea of Chinese. Even during the centuries of the Chinese native rule, the presence of verb-final speakers in court as military or religious leaders and in the capitals as merchants and artisans was often significant and influential. Our research demonstrates clearly that the mechanism of the contact-induced morphosyntactic changes in Chinese is neither borrowing nor interference, the only two mechanisms presented by Thomason and Kaufman (1988). We propose a new mechanism, the "Directed Drift". With copius examples from Chinese, our paper will elucidate the nature and the underlying forces of directed drift in morpho-syntactic change.

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The be said to construction in Late Modern English

Dirk Noël

English Dept., Ghent University, Rozier 44, B-9000 Gent, Belgium

Believe-type verbs, i.e. verbs that display the alternation between a that-clause (1) and an accusative and infinitive complement (2), combine much more frequently with the infinitival complement as passives (2b) than as actives (2a). On average, accusative and infinitives are preceded by passive matrix clauses at least three times more often than by active matrices, but some believe-type verbs never occur as actives before infinitives (most notably, say) and some do so only very rarely (e.g., report, allege and think) (Noël 1998, 2001).

(1) Although the seasoning of foods is a very personal matter, I believe that it is preferable to add salt during cooking to benefit the developing flavours and not at the table, where the tongue will distinguish the undissolved salt added to the food. (BNC ABB 1053)

(2) a. The Ocean is calm, so calm you could believe it to be lacquered wood rather than water and that if you were in a hurry you could leave the boat and walk to shore. (BNC A6T 1622)

(2) b. Australian Mutual Provident executives were yesterday believed to be mounting plans for a takeover which could be one of the largest acquisitions made in the British life insurer sector. (BNC A1E 427)

This paper is about the passive pattern exemplified in (2b), which I will call the be said to construction for the simple reason that be said to is its most frequent representative.

The preponderance of passive over active matrices can in part be explained with reference to information structure and the thematic progression of texts (Noël 1998), but can also be argued to derive from the grammaticalization of some representatives of the pattern into evidential auxiliaries. I have argued in Noël (2001) that frequently used types of passive matrices preceding accusative and infinitives have turned into auxiliary-like function words with an evidential meaning, i.e. they signal that the writer is not the (sole) judge of the factuality of his/her statement by calling in an unspecified source, from whose implied existence the relative factuality of the statement can be inferred.

Examples generated by the BNC seem to suggest that the be said to construction is typical of written, expository texts, though its distribution over different genres has so far not been systematically investigated. Nor has its diachronic development been looked at. If indeed the frequently used representatives of the construction are the product of a grammaticalization process, then it should be possible to observe an increase in their frequency in the course of the history of English. This paper will make a start in answering both the distribution and the evolution question by looking at how the construction is represented in the ARCHER corpus.


Noël, D. (1998). Infinitival copular complement clauses in English: Explaining the predominance of passive matrix verbs. Linguistics 36/6, 1045-1063.

Noël, D. (2001). The passive matrices of English infinitival complement clauses: Evidentials on the road to auxiliarihood? Studies in Language 25/2, 255-296.

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Object expletives as case markings of sentential arguments

Jouni Rostila

University of Tampere, Dept. of German Language and Culture

Instances of it/es such as those in I regretted (it) that he was late, John and Mary have announced (it) that they got married, I like it that she has good manners, Ich gebe (es) zu, dass ..., Ich hasse es, zu spät aufzuwachen are a controversial issue for both generative grammar and traditional accounts. Postal & Pullum (1988) propose that it is in such cases an expletive and envisage the wide theoretical repercussions this claim would have, whereas Rothstein (1995; 2001) argues that it constitutes a full referential pronoun and thus causes no need to revise basic assumptions of the Principles and Parameters framework. Rostila (in press), on the other hand, presents arguments for the view that expletives in general can be considered a means of realizing the case of sentential arguments. In addition to outlining these arguments (based on data from Finnish, German, English and Swedish), my purpose is to present an account of how object expletives in the sense of Rothstein that is, no expletives at all but full pronouns may grammaticalize to object expletives, case markings of sentential arguments. If this development line is plausible, the whole controversy regarding the existence of object expletives may be resolved as stemming from a difference in grammaticalization grade between instances of it in the context V_CP,and thus from an overly synchronic view of language. Precisely the gradual character of grammaticalization processes might lie behind the fact that the relevant data give rise to varying views. Furthermore, I also intend to sketch possible parallels between object expletives and cross-referencing. A grammaticalization line similar to that between full pronouns and object expletives might explain why object agreement morphology can be perceived either as full incorporated pronouns or as agreement markers. Again, both might constitute two sides of the same coin, with grammaticalization deciding the side the coin lies on.


Postal, Paul & Pullum, Geoffrey (1988): Expletive noun phrases in subcategorized positions. Linguistic Inquiry 19, 635-670.

Rostila, Jouni (in press): Kasusentdeckungen? In: Finnische Beiträge zur Germanistik. Frankfurt a.M.: Lang.

Rothstein, Susan (1995): Pleonastics and the interpretation of pronouns. Linguistic Inquiry 26, 499-529.

Rothstein, Susan (2001): Predicates and Their Subjects. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

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The Historical Motivations for the Grammaticalization of the Negative Marker me& i(?)

Yuzhi Shi

National University of Singapore


Charles N. Li

University of California, Santa Barbara


The emergence of the negative marker me& i is the most important event of the development of the negative system in the past 2,000-year history of Chinese, which marks the establishment of the negative system of Modern Chinese. However, in the literature it remains unknown how it was grammaticalized into a negative particle from its original use as an ordinary verb meaning 'lack' or 'not have'. The present analysis attempts to identify the triggering factors for the grammaticalization and the pathway of the evolution.

Before the 8th century, me& i was used as an ordinary verb, meaning 'sink' or 'disappeared in water'; in the late Tang period (about the 10th century) it was extended to express the opposite of the verb of possession (cf. Wang Li 1958). Both of the former and the latter uses belonged to verb class and thus this change is appropriate to be considered as a case of semantic extension rather than grammaticalization. Our analysis will focus on the transition between the following two stages:

Stage 1: from the 8th century to the 15th century, me& i was exclusively used as a verb to deny possession, for instance,


(1) (poem in A.D. 800)















'Nobody comes to these deep mountains and poor valleys.'


Stage 2: from the 15th century, me& i was gradually extended to negate verbal phrases, like:












'There is one flower that has not fully blossomed.'

In this transition process, the status of me& i was changed into a functional word from its original full verb use. To look for the motivation responsible for this change, we have at first identified the labor division between the two basic negatives bu$ and me& i in Modern Chinese. In declarative sentences, if the matrix verb is bounded by a resultative element or an aspect marker or the likes, for instance, it can only be negated by me& i but not by bu$ :

(3) a.









'I have not eaten enough food.'

(3) b.









Many major grammatical changes which served to make the predicate verb bounded like resultatives happened in the period of Song and Yuan dynasties (10th -14th century), e.g. the resultative construction and the system of aspect markers illustrated above. During this period, some of these changes had reached the final point of their development, such as the resultative pattern, and some of them were newly introduced into the language, such as the aspect system. We have hypothesized that the combination power of these grammatical events triggered the verb me& i to grammaticalize into a negative marker which could negate VPs. Due to these events, the matrix verb of a sentence in general became bounded, representing a discrete unit in the time space. Likewise, prototypical nouns also denote a bounded object in the three-dimension space, with the semantic feature 'discrete' as well. This semantic commonality3/4 namely boundedness3/4 between nouns and the matrix verbs made it possible that the nominal negative me& i which originally exclusively negated noun phrases be extended to negate verb phrases. As a result, "mei + VP" is actually the negative form of the perfect aspect in Modern Chinese, whose affirmative form is "VP + le".

In response to the grammaticalization of me& i, the negative system of Chinese underwent a fundamental change: many old negative particles such as ????? were removed from the language, and the function of the preserved negative marker bu has been adjusted accordingly. 

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The development of aspect markers in Japanese

Kazuha Watanabe

Department of Linguistics, Cornell University

In this paper, I investigated the grammaticalization of various aspect makers in Japanese from the 8th century to the modern period. Every occurrence of these markers was classified according to the semantic types of co-occurring verbs. I adopted a revised version of Vendler's categories in order to determine the semantic properties of each verb, consulting with Smith (1991, 1997) and Olsen (1997). The results indicate that the syntactic expansion (i.e., a marker enables to co-occur with more types of verbs than its earlier stage) results in the semantic changes of the marker.

The directionality of the development of aspect markers has been investigated in the past in various forms. For instance, Bybee, Perkins and Pagliuca (1994), among others, classify aspect markers into two categories, namely, 1) completive, perfect, resultative and perfective, and 2) progressive, continuative, iterative, habitual and imperfective. They claim that each group takes a distinctive path of semantic shifts, which is determined by the meanings of lexical items from which the aspect markers are derived. That is, the resultative or completive markers (i.e., group 1), which are usually derived from verbs such as 'be', 'have' 'finish', 'come', 'be away', changes to perfect, then eventually to perfective. On the other hand, the progressive markers (group 2), which originate from locative expressions, evolve to continuative, then to imperfective.

Although their approach gives us an overview of the semantic changes of aspect markers, there are two major problems. First, the binary classification they provide cannot account for the grammaticalization in Japanese, where a resultative marker -wiru, which is classified as group 1 by their approach, has eventually changed to a continuative marker (realized as -te iru in Modern Japanese), which belongs to group 2. Second, they do not discuss the triggers of these semantic changes. I have discovered that the aspect markers in the early stage of their development only co-occur with very specific types of verbs, where as the markers in the later stage can be used with a variety of verbs. For instance, the completive marker -te shimau, which first appears in the documents from the early 19th century, co-occurred only with [+dynamic] [+telic] [+durative] verbs. However, this marker can be used in [-telic] [-durative] situations as well in Modern Japanese, and its semantics has shifted to perfect. The correlation between the syntactic freedom (i.e., ability to be combined with wider range of verbs) and the semantic changes enables us to identify the semantic properties of aspect markers at any given time, as well as to determine the degree of grammaticalization of the markers.

Therefore, I propose that the development of aspect markers can be systematized into a single hierarchical model, based on the degree of syntactic freedom. This model illustrates not only the directionality of diachronic development of aspect systems, but also the synchronic structures of aspectual paradigm in human language.


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Syntactic change involving complex verbal constructions in Texistepec Popoluca

Søren Wichmann

University of Copenhagen

The Mixe-Zoquean language Texistepec Popoluca of south-eastern Mexico has undergone a number of syntactic changes, primarily in the realm of complex verbal constructions, i.e. (1) subordination and (2) the development of auxiliaries. The paper will focus on these two areas: (1) The older pattern of subordination is revealed by the presence of a now-fossilized morpheme -k, which would earlier have marked the subordinate verb, e.g. kä'äs-k-tzak eat-k-leave 'to stop eating'. The evidence from such lexicalized constructions will be brought to bear on the question of word order in an earlier stage of the language. (2) The development of a paradigm of aspect/mode auxiliares can be shown to ultimately have been triggered by a relatively recent loss of final vowels, which had the side effect of wiping out the perfective suffix. The loss of this suffix caused the employment of an adverb meaning 'earlier today' as a perfective auxiliary. This development in turn triggered the employment of a prohibitive particle as an imperfective auxiliary, a change of the conditional marker to 'prohibitive', the extension of the past time marker to also meaning 'conditional', and the change of the former imperfective marker to a future. The development of a set of second-position clitics out of earlier suffixes seems to have been a concomitant of the newly created paradigm of auxiliaries. My hypothesis, which may perhaps be extended to other cases of syntactic change, is that the various changes in the area of complex verbal constructions were not to begin with functionally motivated, but were ultimately triggered by random, phonological and prosodic factors. The processes by which the system was restored were, however, functionally motivated and are best understood in the light of general, typological insights about language organization.

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Changes in case assignment between Old and Modern Icelandic

Kendra Willson


I will chart the relative chronology of changes in the case governed by Icelandic verbs, focusing on the productivity of dative objects, both with verbs which previously governed the accusative and which were previously intransitive.  I will explore how these changes interact with semantic and syntactic patterns such as those discussed by Heusler (1921), Kossuth (1980), Ogier (1981), and Holland (1993) for Old Norse and by Jóhanna Barðdal (2001) and Maling (to appear) for Modern Icelandic.  I will compare the patterns of change in object case to those seen with subject-like datives and discuss issues relevant for the analysis of argument case in Icelandic.

The productivity of dative subjects in Modern Icelandic has also attracted a great deal of scholarly interest; see, e.g., Þórhallur Eyþórsson (2001) and references.  Jóhanna Barðdal (2001) calls attention to the fact that the dative is also productive as a case for direct objects in Modern Icelandic.  Jóhanna focuses on the productivity of the dative object construction with slang, loanwords and neologisms.  There are also at least a hundred verbs which take accusative objects in Old Icelandic and dative objects in Modern Icelandic, as well as numerous verbs which are generally intransitive in Old Icelandic but appear with dative objects in Modern Icelandic.  I have found almost no examples of verbs which take dative objects in Old Norse but accusative ones in Modern Icelandic.

The changes are spread over time.  Some verbs (e.g. seinka 'to delay') show variation between dative and accusative objects already in Old Icelandic, while in Modern Icelandic only the dative is possible.  Others, such as fjölga 'to increase' govern only accusative in Old Icelandic, and show variation between dative and accusative up until the nineteenth century.  In some instances the change in case government is associated with a change in predominant meaning or usage; the use of gnísta 'to rub' with acc. in the meaning 'to tease' has become archaic, while the instrumental dative expression gnísta tönnum 'to gnash one's teeth' has survived.  Similarly, some verbs which now take dative objects were primarily intransitive in Old Norse (e.g. drösla 'to roam about', now with dat. 'to drag'), while others were used both intransitively and with dative objects (e.g., feykja 'to blow away').  Many of these new dative objects are themes which undergo movement, consistent with common observations about Icelandic dative objects (cf. e.g. Maling 2001: 461)

Using the archives of the Icelandic Institute of Lexicography as well as a variety of texts and corpora, I trace the relative chronology of the changes. I observe which semantic generalizations and syntactic patterns seem to be active at which times, and how the changes in case assignment correlate with other syntactic changes in Icelandic.  I will compare these data to the patterns of productivity seen with dative subjects, observing the ways in which these phenomena differ already in earlier periods of Icelandic.  I will discuss ramifications of the observed patterns of productivity for the analysis of case assignment.


Heusler, Andreas.  1921.  Altisländisches Elementarbuch.  2. Auflag. Heidelberg: Winter.

Holland, Gary.  1993.  Transitivity, causativity, and surface case in Old Norse.  Arkiv för nordisk filologi 105 (1993): 19-37.

Jóhanna Barðdal.  2001.  Case in Icelandic: a synchronic, diachronic and comparative approach.  Lundastudier i nordisk språkvetenskap, A 57.  Lund: Department of Scandinavian languages, Lund University.

Kossuth, Karen.  1980.  A case grammar of verbal predicators in Old Icelandic. Göppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik, 271.  Kümmerle Verlag, Göppingen.

Maling, Joan.  2001.  Dative: the heterogeneity of the mapping among morphological case, grammatical functions and thematic roles.  Lingua 111: 419- 464.

Maling, Joan.  (to appear)  Dative object verbs in Modern Icelandic.  To appear in Íslenskt mál.

Ogier, James Michael.  1981.  Recipients and missives in Old Norse: A syntactic analysis of the Old Norse dative.  Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.

Þórhallur Eyþórsson.  2001.  Fall á fallanda fæti?  Íslenskt mál 22 (2000) &#61531;2001 &#61533;: 185-204.


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