criticisms of grammaticalization

Anette Rosenbach ar at
Mon Feb 27 14:03:41 UTC 2006

Dear Martin,

In a recent paper Gerhard Jäger and I try to show that an account of 
unidirectionality and a speaker/usage-based approach to language change do 
not exclude each other, quite the opposite. We argue that at least two cases 
of unidirectional change (the pathway from spatial to temporal expressions 
and phonological reduction) may be connected to evidence for asymmetric 
priming reported in the (psycho-)linguistic literature. We suggest that 
unidirectionality is ultimately decomposable into atomic steps of asymmetric 
priming in language change. That is, in our account, unidirectionality quite 
neatly falls out from language usage, which is, I think, in line with what 
Joan Bybee said in her reply.

Ultimately, we also want to incorporate these ideas into an evolutionary 
approach to language change. The paper contains some first suggestions in 
this direction; for those interested, it is availabe on Gerhard Jäger's 

Anette Rosenbach

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <hilpert at>
To: <funknet at>
Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2006 7:11 PM
Subject: [FUNKNET] criticisms of grammaticalization

> Dear Funknetters,
> I'd like to find out whether anyone has addressed the following two
> theoretical criticisms against grammaticalization theory:
> 1. Unidirectionality, if it exists, is an even greater problem for
> functionalism than if it turns out to be false. Developments that span
> centuries would have to be explained independently of speakers, who only
> have access to three generations of other speakers. (I attribute this one 
> to
> Janda 2001.)
> 2. Grammaticalization should really be decomposed into its independently
> existing component processes. There's no point in granting explanatory 
> power
> to an epiphenomenon. (Newmeyer 1998, Joseph 2001, amongst others)
> Any references - or spontaneous reactions - will be greatly appreciated.
> Thanks, --Martin
> ------------------------------
> Martin Hilpert
> Rice University
> Department of Linguistics MS 23
> 6100 Main Street
> 77005-1892 Houston TX
> Tel (001) 713 3482822
> Fax (001) 713 3484718

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