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Volume Editors: and
The volume brings together contributions by scholars working in different theoretical frameworks interested in systematic explanation of language change and the interrelation between current linguistic theories and modern analytical tools and methodology; the integrative basis of all work included in the volume is the special focus on phenomena at the interface of semantics and syntax and the implications of corpus-based, quantitative analyses for researching diachrony.
The issues addressed in the 13 papers include the following: explanations of change in the interface of semantics and syntax; universal constraints and principles of language change (e.g., economy, reanalysis, analogy) and the possibility of predicting language change; constructional approaches to change and their relation to corpus-based research; language contact as an explanation of change and approaches to historical bilingualism and language contact, all on the basis of empirical corpus findings; the challenges of creating diachronic corpora and the question of how quantitative linguistics and diachronic corpora inform explanations of language change variation.

Abstract

This papers aims at a.) drawing a comparison between English and Greek with respect to the diachrony of their complementation and mood system, especially examining the diachronic function of the infinitive and the subjunctive, b.) investigating how categories such as finiteness/non-finiteness and mood intertwine within language change, c.) suggesting that diachronically complementation change is cyclical (in the sense that mixed systems of both finite and non-finite complements may tend to more uniform systems and the other way around) d.) underlining the importance of corpora research in diachronic comparative linguistics. In addition, the paper encompasses certain remarks and (working) hypotheses regarding the Indo-European complementation system.

In: Studying Language Change in the 21st Century
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Abstract

Sixteenth-century Italy saw the codification of a literary variety based on archaic Florentine. This process was at first guided by non-Tuscans, and the codified variety did not entirely coincide with the variety spoken at the time in Florence, going back instead to the language of fourteenth-century Florentine authors. This archaising variety was at first rejected by Tuscan writers as inauthentic, but in the course of the century attitudes changed, and this variety was eventually promoted by the Accademia della Crusca. Whereas most attention has focused on the literary sphere, the reception of this archaising norm in Tuscany at the level of informal writings warrants further investigation. This paper examines the Buonarroti letter corpus, tracking the spread of the archaising form of the masculine determiner, a highly salient feature that distinguished archaic and contemporary Tuscan. The analysis shows a dramatic increase in the use of this form throughout the sixteenth century, with the change being led by high-ranking individuals and progressively adopted by the ranks below. Italian historiography has been criticised for the centrality usually attributed to change from above. The results presented here, however, suggest that, for a highly salient feature, change from above is detectable in the informal written language of sixteenth-century Tuscans.

In: Studying Language Change in the 21st Century

Abstract

In this chapter, several corpus-linguistic studies that seek to detect possible effects of prescriptivism on language change are reviewed and compared: Langer (2001); Auer (2006, 2009); Poplack & Dion (2009); Poplack (2015); Poplack et al. (2015); Anderwald (2014, 2016); Hinrichs, Szmrecsanyi & Bohmann (2015); Havinga (2018), among others. The studies under review seek to “correlate” two types of corpora: a metalinguistic ‘precept’ corpus (consisting of traditional grammars, usage guides, etc.) and a historical ‘usage’ corpus. Changes in usage in the historical corpus are attributed to prescriptivism, provided a) they occur towards the direction prescriptive instructions dictate and b) all other possible causes of change have been excluded. The corpus-linguistic studies are brought under the lens of a performative theory of prescriptivism. The theory accounts for different types of prescriptive acts (‘correctives’ and ‘permissives’), possibly having different effects; it takes into consideration the pragmatic conditions under which prescriptive acts can be felicitous or infelicitous; and, most importantly, it offers a grid on which the existing corpus-linguistic studies can be compared and evaluated.

In: Studying Language Change in the 21st Century

Abstract

This chapter presents a fine-grained analysis of a grammatical change in the history of Greek, that of the marker (o)pu [( ) που] ‘that’ developing an adverbial connective function out of the earlier relativizer one, which took place in Medieval Greek. Drawing on corpus data and frequency-based entrenchment, I argue that a) the reanalysis in question depends on specific transitional contexts equally defined by syntactic and pragmatic parameters; as such, they are most appropriately analyzed as grammatical constructions, allowing for close tracking of all partial changes as well as of features that remain constant between the original and the later functions, b) these transitional constructions, which become entrenched in Medieval Greek and continue into Modern Greek along with the original relativizer and the (unambiguously) adverbial ones, support the functional unity (polysemy) of (o)pu[( ) που], contested in the earlier literature. I specifically suggest that the grammatical polysemy associated with the marker should be analyzed as inhering in particular constructional contexts that receive empirical support both from the diachronic data and from synchronic ambiguity.

In: Studying Language Change in the 21st Century

Abstract

The focus of our study is to examine present-day translations of earlier texts. We aim to determine whether lexical characteristics related to earlier periods of a language are preserved in translation—in other words, whether language change is represented and affects the linguistic features of translations. We employ bilingual corpora—including texts in the linguistic pairs English-Greek and Greek-English—to identify similarities and differences in observed characteristics in each target language; subsequently, we analyze our findings in juxtaposition to the lexical characteristics observed in a corpus of translations of present-day texts and non-translated present-day texts in the corresponding target languages. We emphasize the existence of lexical features in translations that could be representative of the pre-contemporary character of earlier—Renaissance—source texts. While no clear indication of lexical transfer becomes evident in the corpus of translations we examine, linguistic features adopted in translations present a complex picture: they show archaic or old-fashioned lexical markers accounting for a ‘superficial archaization’ effect (not connecting the texts to a particular period). However, other cases illustrate a ‘minimal modernization’ tendency that also allows for the adoption of non-standard markers.

In: Studying Language Change in the 21st Century
In: Studying Language Change in the 21st Century

Abstract

We argue that the reanalysis of naturally from manner to speaker-oriented, viz. evidential, adverb is contingent on the principled availability of three merge sites: one in the VP-domain (giving rise to the manner reading), one in the high TP-domain and one in the CP-domain (both giving rise to the evidential reading). Our investigation into so-called bridging contexts for reanalysis, i.e. contexts that invite both the older (manner) and the newer (speaker-oriented) interpretation, suggests that the lexical entry for naturally is syntactically underspecified in such a way that it can be merged in all three positions, with both readings of the adverb being generated by a Content-matching analysis.

In: Studying Language Change in the 21st Century

Abstract

Despite decades-long efforts to come up with a single mechanism to account for all contact-induced syntactic change these efforts have nevertheless failed either because they are easy to falsify empirically or due to theoretical inadequacy. This article advocates a new work-paradigm whereby there is no need for a specialised mechanism for contact-induced syntactic change. If however, contact-induced syntactic change arises as the result of the same acquisitional process as monolingual acquisition then how to differentiate? It is claimed that contact-induced syntactic change can be accounted for in terms of acquisition in multilingual settings. In particular, the unique socio-historical conditions such as dominance, population displacement and immigration, existence of standards, remoteness of terrain, size, and socio-economic makeup of the communities, etc. create different input conditions and thus differentiated acquisition patterns ranging from simultaneous to sequential to heritage leading a dynamic and ever-evolving grammars. Our task is to understand the nature of the multilingual input and the conditions on use as these are ‘fed’ into acquisition processes.

In: Studying Language Change in the 21st Century

Abstract

The paper investigates the history of perfect from Late Medieval to Modern Greek intending to shed light on factors and mechanisms at play in language change actualization. Specifically, we explore the development of two periphrastic constructions with the verb ˈexo, which are commonly regarded as the exponents of the perfect in the periods under examination, and, through a detailed description of their formal and functional variation, we propose an explanation in which the synchronic relationship, as well as the diachronic interaction between the two constructions, determines the direction and properties of the attested changes. This interpretation highlights the importance of commonalities shared by the two constructions rather than their treatment as competing forms. In this context, we argue that analogy and constructional networks offer a more reliable framework for explaining the diachronic change.

In: Studying Language Change in the 21st Century