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Does innovation need reanalysis?

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Abstract

Syntactic reanalysis has been claimed to be the only mechanism capable of explaining syntactic change. However, the concept of syntactic reanalysis is flawed. It insufficiently accommodates gradience in synchronic grammar and in language change, and depends too heavily on ambiguity as a cause of change. Alternative mechanisms exist to account for innovation that do not suffer from these problems. At the same time, the problem of explaining syntactic innovations is partly tied to models of language that overstate the role of syntax. Part of the problem therefore disappears under different theoretical starting assumptions.

References

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