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The Diachrony of Grammar

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Abstract

The case-studies assembled in these two volumes span a lifetime of research into the diachrony of grammar. That is, into the rise and fall of syntactic constructions and their attendant grammatical morphology. While focused squarely on the data, the studies are nonetheless cast in an explicit theoretical perspective – adaptive, developmental, variationist. Taken as a whole, this work constitutes a frontal assault on Ferdinand de Saussure's corrosive legacy in linguistics. Over the years, reviewers slapped the author's wrist periodically for having dared to commit that most heinous of sins against de Saussure's hallowed legacy – <i>panchronic grammar</i>. In this work he pleads guilty, having never seen a piece of synchronic data that didn't reek, to high heaven, of the diachrony that gave it rise. Reek in two distinct ways: first with the <i>frozen relics</i> of the past that prompt us to reconstruct prior diachronic states; and second with the <i>synchronic variation</i> that hints at ongoing change. Conversely, the author confesses to having never seen a diachronic explanation that did not hinge on the synchronic principles – Carnap's general propositions – that govern <i>language behavior</i>. The synchrony and diachrony of grammar are twin faces of the same coin. To study one without the other is to gut both. By understanding how synchronic grammars come into being we also understand the cognitive, communicative, neurological and developmental universals that constrain diachronic change – and through it synchronic typology.

Subjects: Historical linguistics; Syntax; Evolution of language

  • Affiliations: 1: University of Oregon

References

http://jbenjamins.metastore.ingenta.com/content/books/9789027268884
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