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“The ghosts of old morphology”

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Abstract

&#8220;Ghost&#8221; inflectional morphology that has lost its grammatical function but remains as phonetic material has been argued to have undergone lexicalization (since the inflection becomes an unanalyzable part of the lexical item and emerges as &#8220;more lexical&#8221;) and/or degrammaticalization (since the inflection loses grammatical function and is hence &#8220;less grammatical&#8221;); if seen as the natural consequence of an inflection having attained advanced grammatical status, it may also be understood as degrammaticalization. Focusing on comparative <i>-er</i> (<i>near</i>), superlative <i>-est</i> (<i>next</i>), adverbial genitive <i>-s</i> (e.g. <i>once</i>, <i>towards, sideways</i>), and adverbial dative <i>-um</i> (<i>whilom</i>), this paper distinguishes between changes affecting different parts of a construction (i.e. the host words and the inflectional endings) and argues that the inflections are subject to neither lexicalization nor (de)grammaticalization, but are instances of &#8220;petrification&#8221;.

References

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