Joyce Tang Boyland
jtang at COGSCI.BERKELEY.EDU
Sat Oct 28 01:48:21 UTC 1995
Thank you for starting this discussion; it's exactly what I need
to get me started on writing the next chapter of my dissertation,
which is going to be all about what ought and oughtn't to count as gramzn
(and why it doesn't matter!)
I have three main ideas here.
First, I agree that grammaticalization should rightfully be a fuzzy
concept. It's already pretty much agreed by us funknetters that most
concepts of real world things are fuzzy. What is a chair? (Right now
I am sitting on a large green rubber ball, very comfortable.)
Or, to be more specific, we should talk about dynamic processes that
happen naturally in the real world. What is the Gulf Stream? or the
Santa Ana winds (hot dry winds that blow on California usually in October
(how hot? how dry? what about September? everywhere in California?))?
We know about radial categories and prototypes, and that they're a
better way to describe natural concepts than the old-fashioned
hard-edged categories with clear boundaries.
When we talk about grammaticalization, we recognize the prototypical
cases, and we recognize what's sort of "borderline", and what just
doesn't fit the picture. So I think that, if we try to impose
criteria on grammaticalization, whatever we end up with is going to
be somewhat artificial.
This brings me to the second point.
Does teenage rebelliousness count as an instance of maturation?
or does taking up weaving count as an instance of finding oneself?
Can I ask
whether the falling of leaves counts as an instance of seasonal cycles?
These questions sound very strange, and I think it may be just as strange
to ask whether the formation of a suppletive paradigm for `go'
counts as an instance of grammaticalization.
What seems wrong is that these questions are taking
natural phenomena that take place over long periods of time
and that comprise whole chains of individual events (none of which
really *have* to occur, but which instead form a general pattern),
and then asking whether some isolated incident "counts" as an instance.
But since we don't have a clear definition of grammaticalization,
we have to do lots of research, in parallel, on both the individual
events and on the general pattern. Is there something that always
happens in the prototypical cases of grammaticalization, that leads
naturally to this other more controversial type of change? Or,
do we see something in this other type of change that reminds us of
what happens normally? Does it make plain some new mechanism that we
notice co-occurring with some well-known type of change?
Maybe what we mean when we ask "Is this historical development a
case of grammaticalization?" is really more like
"Does it help us understand this development to look at it in the
framework of grammaticalization?" and (conversely) "Does it help us
understand the basic idea of grammaticalization (which we have an
intuitive feel for) to look at what happens in this particular
development?" But then it is no longer a question of definitions
and boundaries. Questions such as these pretty much answer themselves.
If we ask, "Does it help us understand?" we can just try it and see.
You have figured out by now that I think of grammaticalization as
a process, and one that is not defined by its results. It might
be helpful to think of it more in terms of what drives it.
I'm running out of time and space here, so I will quickly and rashly
posit that grammaticalization is what happens (cognitively) when people figure
out what was meant despite what was said, and then turning it
into a rule about how that meaning is expressed. I guess this is
a rephrasing and extension (vague-ifying?) of ECTraugott's definition.
I may write again tomorrow retracting this when I've had more time to
think about what I've just said.
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