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  • New reflections on grammaticalization ed. by Ilse Wischer and Gabriele Diewald
  • Joseph F. Eska
New reflections on grammaticalization. Ed. by Ilse Wischer and Gabriele Diewald. (Typological studies in language 49.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2002. Pp. xiv, 435. ISBN 1588111210. $138 (Hb).

This volume contains a selection of papers read at an international symposium at the University of Potsdam (17–19 June 1999).1 The enormous increase in the study of grammaticalization in [End Page 788] recent years is reflected in collected volumes such as Traugott & Heine 1991, Pagliuca 1994, and Giacolone Ramat & Hopper 1998, and this volume continues in this direction. The stated goal of the symposium was ‘to promote a forum to further the understanding of old problems as well as to discuss new approaches, developments and controversies in this still expanding field of research’ (ix). The main thrusts of the volume as a whole are to attempt to increase the precision of the theory of grammaticalization, expand the range of linguistic phenomena which can be explored as instantiations of grammaticalization, and look towards future directions of research in the field.

The first pair of papers focuses on theoretical issues concerning the interrelationships of grammaticalization, lexicalization, and degrammaticalization. Christian Lehmann lucidly explains that grammaticalization is not the polar opposite of lexicalization but is orthogonal to it, in that both are reduction processes. Employing data from Jaminjung (Australia; non-Pama-Nyungan), German, and Spanish, Lehmann further argues that constructions, not forms, are grammaticalized or lexicalized (or both). Johan van der Auwera argues that grammaticalization is not unidirectional, as has often been proposed, that is, that degrammaticalization exists (cf. Janda 2001) and is partially coextensive with lexicalization. The balance of his paper sketches out future research directions on degrammaticalization, the most important of which are to describe and explain the typology of possible degrammaticalizations and to compare the respective properties of grammaticalization and degrammaticalization.

The second group of papers approaches degrammaticalization from a variety of perspectives. Jurgen Klausenburger sets up a framework in which morphology occupies the central position in a grammar and grammaticalization is essentially equivalent to desyntacticization. Degrammaticalization, then, is equivalent to demorphologization. Klausenburger employs data from Latin and Romance to illustrate the lopsided asymmetry favoring morphologization. Muriel Norde invokes exaptation to motivate the degrammaticalization of flectional affixes in the Swedish nominal system to derivational suffixes or clitics. She suggests that unidirectionality has often been insisted upon in the past owing to a misdefinition and proposes to define degrammaticalization as any grammatical change which results in a leftward shift on the following cline:

(1) content item > grammatical word > clitic > inflectional affix (> ∅)

Norde also addresses asymmetry in favor of grammaticalization, concluding that degrammaticalization is rare because the circumstances that favor it are rare themselves. Aidan Doyle adopts a generative approach involving parameter resetting to explain the degrammaticalization of the first person plural desinence in the Early Modern Irish synthetic verbal form (in 2a) to a clitic pronominal construed analytically with a general verbal form (historically third person singular) in contemporary Connemara Irish (in 2b).


a. molfa-maid

b. molfaidh=muid

  ‘we will praise’

He argues that the personal affix was treated as a clitic at the phonological level in Middle Irish, which favored its eventual degrammaticalization to a clitic.

The following two papers are detailed examinations of the types of linguistic contexts in which grammatical meanings can develop out of lexical meanings. Bernd Heine employs a wide range of data from African languages and German to propose a four-stage path whereby grammaticalization occurs. He stresses that the intermediate stages—the ‘bridging context’, in which the target meaning is foregrounded, and the ‘switch context’, in which the source meaning is backgrounded— are rarely recoverable, but we must closely examine those instances that do exist if the entire process of grammaticalization is to be understood. Gabriele Diewald studies the history of German modals in a framework consistent with that of Heine but emphasizes the expansion of a linguistic item into an atypical context as a necessary precondition for grammaticalization to occur.

The next group of papers is concerned with source and target concepts in...


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