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Exaptation in Japanese and beyond

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Abstract

An increasing amount of specific phenomena have been identified as exaptation in a variety of languages, but mainly of the Indo-European stock, and mainly concentrating on a specific example of the phenomenon. Furthermore, there is considerable disagreement about how the concept should be applied in the study of language change. The purpose of this paper is to (1) present a (hopefully) useful version of the concept, and (2) shed light on our understanding of exaptation by putting the focus on a historically relatively well-documented language from a different corner of the world, namely Japanese. Based on a database of grammaticalization-related changes, I will try to give an overview of exaptation phenomena across the board in this language. In this manner we arrive at some generalizations across exaptations based on empirical facts, and also get an idea of how exaptation tallies up against grammaticalization. Finally, these generalizations are reflected in an attempt at a general conceptualization of exaptation vis-à-vis grammaticalization.

References

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