Reconsidering erosion in grammaticalization

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The loss of phonological substance (‘erosion’) has been identified as a recurring concomitant of grammaticalization and is often taken as a defining property of the process. This paper critically reexamines the role of erosion in a theory of grammaticalization by investigating the phonology of cliticization. The degree of phonological reduction that accompanies this sub-process of grammaticalization varies across different prosodic systems. Concentrating on stress systems, heavy erosion of grammaticalized elements is characteristic for languages with strong segmental effect of stress (e.g. German) and less so for languages with weak stress (e.g. Turkish). A revised theory of grammaticalization thus needs to acknowledge structural factors constraining the development of morphemes and should define evolutionary paths not in terms of universal scenarios but relative to different language types.


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