grammaticalization and complexity

Tom Bartlett BartlettT at
Wed Mar 16 09:44:09 UTC 2011

How about when our ancestors moved from holistic cries to two-item 


From:   Frederick J Newmeyer <fjn at>
To:     Funknet <funknet at>
Date:   16/03/2011 03:09
Subject:        [FUNKNET] grammaticalization and complexity
Sent by:        funknet-bounces at


I am looking for nice examples of where a grammaticalization-related 
change, however motivated it might be from the point of view of the 
language user, ends up increasing the overall complexity of the resultant 
grammatical system. One example that came to mind is the formation of the 
distinct grammatical category of Modal Auxilary in English out of a 
subclass of verbs. One might argue that English grammar is now more 
complex because there are two categories rather than one and each have 
very distinct properties. Can anybody think of other/better examples from 
other languages?

Thanks! I'll summarize if there is any interest.


Frederick J. Newmeyer
Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser 
[for my postal address, please contact me by e-mail]

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