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Folia Linguistica

Acta Societatis Linguisticae Europaeae

Editor-in-Chief: Fischer, Olga / Norde, Muriel

Folia Linguistica
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Volume 48, Issue 2


Quo vadis grammaticalization theory? Why complex language change is like words

Björn Wiemer
Published Online: 2014-11-21 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flin.2014.015


The article addresses structural aspects of language change which have been ascribed to grammaticalization and have tacitly been presupposed by diverse accounts (i) of the motives of complex changes, (ii) of the role of language contact, and (iii) by attempts to create areal profiles of language types and zones of convergence. We discuss some of the preconditions for a comprehensive and yet unified treatment of changes in which grammaticalization would not become an anythinggoes concept of grammatical change. Starting from a reconsideration of Lehmann’s parameters and their treatment in the literature, we first address problems connected to accounts based on prototypes (or checklists). Parameters belonging to the syntagmatic axis are analyzed in more detail. Even though parameters may be ranked within prototype-based approaches, such an approach is shown to be insufficient in articulating a coherent theory. An alternative might consist in the application of a superordinate principle based on relative discourse prominence (together with conventionalization). The advantages and drawbacks of both approaches are investigated, and it is argued that they should be employed as complementary parts of a coherent grammaticalization theory that is yet to be detailed.

Keywords: Grammaticalization; language change; prototype theory; areal clustering; syntactic tightening; conventionalized discursive secondariness

About the article

Received: 2013-06-24

Accepted: 2014-01-20

Published Online: 2014-11-21

Published in Print: 2014-10-01

Citation Information: Folia Linguistica, Volume 48, Issue 2, Pages 425–468, ISSN (Online) 1614-7308, ISSN (Print) 0165-4004, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/flin.2014.015.

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