WiSe 18/19: S-Language Change II: Grammaticalization and Grammatical Change
Ferdinand von Mengden
The main topic of this seminar is the emergence and change of grammatical forms and structures. Our point of departure will be defined by two questions: What exactly do we mean when we speak of ... read more
The main topic of this seminar is the emergence and change of grammatical forms and structures. Our point of departure will be defined by two questions: What exactly do we mean when we speak of ‘grammar’? And, given that grammar seems to be a well-functioning system, why does it change at all?
Our main attention then is devoted to the how-question. Which mechanisms of speaking and of communication are responsible for the stability and instability of linguistic structures? Which processes and variables in areas outside of grammar (e.g., semantics, phonetics) can have an impact on the grammatical system? And how do these changes in turn influence other areas of linguistic communication?
Since the 1980s there has been increasing attention to the way in which grammatical elements and grammatical structures emerge and undergo change. This area in the study of language (change) which is commonly referred to as ‘grammaticalization’. Nowadays however a large number of quite unrelated phenomena on various levels of linguistic description (syntax, semantics, morphology, pragmatics, phonology) are analysed in this context and subsumed under the label ‘grammaticalization’. Therefore, if we wish to understand grammatical change, it will be helpful to assess the advantages of this concept – but also to see whether it might be problematic in the sense of blocking our view to relevant explanations.
Broadening our understanding of the emergence and the variability of grammatical structures allow us to gain a larger picture of how human language in general is variable and subject to change. It is in this sense that the heuristic aim of this seminar has a general linguistic character – meaning that it is not just relevant for the study of one particular language but for human language as such. We will study this area mainly by drawing on English examples an phenomena, but, whenever appropriate, we will also draw on material from other languages.
Those who wish to participate in the seminar, but cannot come to the first class are kindly asked to notify me via email before the beginning of the lecture period.