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Abstract

The study examines the grammaticalization of the noun ‘head’ in four Chadic languages: Pero (West Chadic), Mina, Wandala, (Central Chadic) and Lele (East Chadic). The study examines the grammaticalization of the following functions: spatial relation ‘on’; coreferentiality; and the point of view of the affected subject, whose manifestations are sometimes referred to as ‘middle’. The study addresses the question of motivation for grammaticalization, and in particular the fundamental question of why some functions are grammaticalized in some languages but not in others. The study rejects general cognitive processes and creativity as motivations for cross-linguistic differences in grammaticalization. The study also shows that cultural characteristics cannot explain differences in grammaticalization of the point of view of affected subject, as such differences are found among speakers who share the same culture and live in the same geographical area. Instead, the study demonstrates that language-internal factors are the motivation for the grammaticalization of the point of view of the affected subject: If the point of view of the affected subject is the inherent characteristic of some verbs in a language, the language does not grammaticalize additional means of marking this function.

In: Embodiment in Cross-Linguistic Studies
In: Faits de Langues

The present article proposes a non-aprioristic approach to analyzing the domains of information structure and reference systems. The article is inspired by the papers in Information structuring of spoken language from a cross-linguistic perspective (), and from my own research on languages for which only spoken data exist. As an outcome of this study it may turn out that ‘information structure’ and ‘reference system’ each constitute a distinct functional domain in some languages. The study addresses some of the most interesting findings in languages discussed in the volume, supplemented by my own findings on a variety of languages.

Open Access
In: Journal of Language Contact
In: Journal of Language Contact

This review article consists of three parts: a presentation of McWhorter’s book, an evaluation of the book, and a proposal for a systematic metric for one version of the notions of simplicity and complexity in languages. McWhorter’s basic thesis, that creoles have simpler grammars than their lexifier languages and simpler grammars than languages transmitted through acquisition in childhood, must begin with rigorous definitions of the terms ‘simplicity’ and ‘complexity’. The paper proposes a way to measure simplicity and complexity. Whether the notions of simplicity or complexity have a heuristic value remains an open question.

In: Journal of Language Contact

Based on the papers included in the reviewed volume, this article puts forward a number of questions that are important for the theory of language change under contact. While there exist reliable methodologies to determine whether a given form represents the effect of language contact or not, and a slightly less reliable methodologies to establish whether a given function is a product of language contact, there is a relative paucity of studies discussing the motivation for language change under contact with respect to the functions encoded in the language.

In: Journal of Language Contact

Abstract

The aim of this study is to contribute to the methodology for determining whether a given characteristic of a language is a product of language contact or of language-internal grammaticalization. We have taken as a test problem a formal structure that is relatively rare across languages but that occurs in a few geographically proximate languages belonging to different families. The presence of a typologically rare phenomenon in neighboring but unrelated languages raises the question of whether the structure may be a product of cross-linguistic contact.The structures that we examine involve the split coding of person and number of the subject, in which a pronoun preceding the verb codes person only. Plurality of the subject is coded by a suffix to the verb, usually the same suffix for all persons. In some languages the split coding of person and number operates for all persons, while in others the split coding is limited to some persons only. This structure has been observed in several languages spoken in a small area of Northern Cameroon. Three of these languages, Gidar, Giziga, and Mofu-Gudur, belong to the Central branch of the Chadic family, while two other languages, Mundang and Tupuri, belong to the Adamawa branch of the Niger-Congo family. Outside of this geographical area, this structure has been observed in Egyptian, some Cushitic languages, and in some languages of North America.Since every linguistic phenomenon must have been grammaticalized in some language at some point, we must consider first whether there are language-internal prerequisites for such grammaticalization. For each language of the study, we show that the split coding of person and number may represent a product of language-internal development. The presence of the phenomenon in a language that does not have language-internal prerequisites can then be safely considered to be a product of language contact.

Free access
In: Journal of Language Contact
In: Language Formation by Adults
In: Language Formation by Adults
In: Language Formation by Adults