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In: Interactions of Degree and Quantification
In: Interactions of Degree and Quantification
During several decades, syntactic reconstruction has been more or less regarded as a bootless and an unsuccessful venture, not least due to the heavy criticism in the 1970s from scholars like Watkins, Jeffers, Lightfoot, etc. This fallacious view culminated in Lightfoot’s (2002: 625) conclusion: “[i]f somebody thinks that they can reconstruct grammars more successfully and in more widespread fashion, let them tell us their methods and show us their results. Then we’ll eat the pudding.” This volume provides methods for the identification of i) cognates in syntax, and ii) the directionality of syntactic change, showcasing the results in the introduction and eight articles. These examples are offered as both tastier and also more nourishing than the pudding Lightfoot had in mind when discarding the viability of reconstructing syntax.
In: Reconstructing Syntax
In: Reconstructing Syntax

Abstract

This article focuses on the methodology for syntactic reconstruction in languages without a written record from the past. The idea is to follow the principles of the Comparative Method, the scientific procedure to compare and reconstruct sounds and lexical items in various proto-languages. The method originally developed out of the comparison and reconstruction of classic languages in Indo-European languages, but has been successfully applied to Austronesian languages, where information about old forms of languages is hardly available from literature. The claim in this article is that there are ways to conduct syntactic reconstruction with languages without a written record. It is shown that, by using correct comparanda and by combining structural analyses with results of sound and lexical reconstruction, clause structures of such languages can be compared and reconstructed, and the developmental paths from one system to another can be traced.

Open Access
In: Reconstructing Syntax

Abstract

This article focuses on the methodology for syntactic reconstruction in languages without a written record from the past. The idea is to follow the principles of the Comparative Method, the scientific procedure to compare and reconstruct sounds and lexical items in various proto-languages. The method originally developed out of the comparison and reconstruction of classic languages in Indo-European languages, but has been successfully applied to Austronesian languages, where information about old forms of languages is hardly available from literature. The claim in this article is that there are ways to conduct syntactic reconstruction with languages without a written record. It is shown that, by using correct comparanda and by combining structural analyses with results of sound and lexical reconstruction, clause structures of such languages can be compared and reconstructed, and the developmental paths from one system to another can be traced.

Open Access
In: Reconstructing Syntax

Abstract

The general consensus in the historical linguistics community for the last half a century or so has been that syntactic reconstruction is a bootless and unsuccessful venture. However, this view has slowly but steadily been changing among historical linguists, typologists, and anthropological linguists alike. More and more syntactic reconstructions are being published by respectable and virtuous publication venues. The debate on the viability of syntactic reconstruction, however, continues, and issues like i) lack of cognates, ii) lack of arbitrariness in syntax, iii) lack of directionality in syntactic change, iv) lack of continuous transmission from one generation to the next, and v) lack of form–meaning correspondences have, drop by drop, been argued not to be problematic for syntactic reconstruction. The present volume contributes to two of these issues in detail; first the issue of reliably identifying cognates in syntax and second, the issue of directionality in syntactic change. A systematic program is suggested for identifying cognates in syntax, which by definition is a different enterprise from identifying cognates in phonology or morphology. Examples are given from several different language families: Indo-European, Semitic, Austronesian, Jê, Cariban, and Chibchan. Regarding the issue of directionality for syntactic reconstruction, most of the studies in this volume also demonstrate how local directionality may be identified with the aid of different types of morphosyntactic flags, particularly showcased with examples from Chibchan, Semitic, and various Indo-European languages.

Open Access
In: Reconstructing Syntax

Abstract

The general consensus in the historical linguistics community for the last half a century or so has been that syntactic reconstruction is a bootless and unsuccessful venture. However, this view has slowly but steadily been changing among historical linguists, typologists, and anthropological linguists alike. More and more syntactic reconstructions are being published by respectable and virtuous publication venues. The debate on the viability of syntactic reconstruction, however, continues, and issues like i) lack of cognates, ii) lack of arbitrariness in syntax, iii) lack of directionality in syntactic change, iv) lack of continuous transmission from one generation to the next, and v) lack of form–meaning correspondences have, drop by drop, been argued not to be problematic for syntactic reconstruction. The present volume contributes to two of these issues in detail; first the issue of reliably identifying cognates in syntax and second, the issue of directionality in syntactic change. A systematic program is suggested for identifying cognates in syntax, which by definition is a different enterprise from identifying cognates in phonology or morphology. Examples are given from several different language families: Indo-European, Semitic, Austronesian, Jê, Cariban, and Chibchan. Regarding the issue of directionality for syntactic reconstruction, most of the studies in this volume also demonstrate how local directionality may be identified with the aid of different types of morphosyntactic flags, particularly showcased with examples from Chibchan, Semitic, and various Indo-European languages.

Open Access
In: Reconstructing Syntax
In: Reconstructing Syntax