Evolution and Grammaticalization

Östen Dahl oesten at ling.su.se
Tue Feb 28 19:48:47 UTC 2006

For those who are interested in the term "epiphenomenon", its history and
various uses I recommend reading Daniel Dennett's discussion in "Consciousness
explained", pp. 401-404. As will be clear from the following quote, it's not
only in linguistics that the term is problematic: 

"The term "epiphenomena" is in common use today by both philosophers and
psychologists (and other cognitive scientists). It is used with the presumption
that its meaning is familiar and agreed upon, when in fact, philosophers and
cognitive scientists use the term with *entirely* different meanings -- a
strange fact made even stranger to me by the fact that although I have pointed
this out time and again, no one seems to care."

(The two meanings are "a nonfunctional property or byproduct" and "an effect
which by itself has no effects in the physical world whatever".)

The term "emergence", by the way, is arguably even more ambiguously used by
linguists and others. I discuss the two terms "emergence" and "epiphenomena" in
my book "The growth and maintenance of linguistic complexity", Benjamins 2004.  

-- Östen Dahl

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