Bühler’s two-field theory of pointing and naming and the deictic origins of grammatical morphemes

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Current research on grammaticalization argues that grammatical markers are generally derived from content words (or lexical expressions); but earlier research by Brugmann (1904) and Bühler (1934) showed that grammatical markers are also commonly derived from (spatial) deictics (or demonstratives). The present paper provides an overview of this research focusing on Bühler’s two-field theory of pointing and naming. In this theory, there are two basic types of linguistic expressions, deictics (or ‘pointing words’) and symbols (or ‘naming words’), that are functionally and diachronically independent of each other. The paper argues that Bühler’s two-field theory can be seen as an alternative to the standard model of grammaticalization in which all grammatical markers are ultimately based on content words. Elaborating this approach, it is argued that the grammaticalization of deictic expressions involves a different mechanism of change than the grammaticalization of content words and that the two developments give rise to different types of grammatical markers.


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