The role of implicational universals in language change

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Universal properties of language constrain not only the languages themselves, but also which directions of change are possible. Implicational universals, where one linguistic property is seen to constrain, or in the weaker case, have a probabilistic influence upon the value of another parameter, have a more controversial relationship with language change. Some, e.g. Cysouw (2003a), have challenged the very validity of the notion of the implicational universal, with some welcome criticisms of its overuse. But if we still accept the notion, it is nevertheless evident that in the case of a probabilistic rather than an absolute implicational universal, we will be unable to establish an exceptionless pattern of change. This paper examines one ongoing change within Tunisian Arabic which is mediated by dialect contact. It suggests that for some changes induced by dialect contact, the question of the role of implicational universals in predicting and/or constraining outcomes of change is worth further investigation. This is based on a strong match observed between the route of change and an implicational universal.


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