How far does semantic bleaching go

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According to influential work on grammaticalization, the route grammaticalizing changes take is from lexical to functional categories (Lehmann 1985, van Gelderen 1993). It will be demonstrated on two grammatical relations that this is a too specific assumption. First, modal particles in German and Dutch emerge from adverbials and conjunctions — obviously, semantically more complete elements -, but, on their route to non-adverbial particles, they do not arrive at any functional status in any minimal sense. Second, as regards the infinitival preposition (IPrep), IPrep in German as well as other Germanic languages, bleaches out semantically from an original adverbial without, however, ever reaching the functional syntactic domain (in terms of Minimalism). The third relevant characteristic to be mentioned in this context is the fact that, despite heavy semantic bleaching and arriving at new syntactic functions, the original lexical semantics remains ‘shining through’ in the case of modal particles (MPs) in German and Dutch. This allows us to reconstruct an LF-status of modal particles as a triple COMP mapping. The decision which of the three COMPs is instantiated by an individual MP depends on its original categorial status as diachronic pre-MP.


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