grammaticalization and complexity

A. Katz amnfn at
Wed Mar 16 12:40:06 UTC 2011


The way you describe what you are looking for, any kind of split, whether 
phonological, morphological or syntactic, would be such a 
grammaticalization-related increase in complexity. So when a stop becomes 
a fricative in specific environments, that increases the complexity of 
the phonological system. When a lexeme is recruited as a grammatical 
marker for a new category, say leich/li/ly to adjectival/adverbial marker, 
there is increased complexity. When a change in word order, which used to 
be optional, like putting the verb first, becomes marked for semantic 
purposes, like question formation, then that increases the grammatical 

Of course, all these changes usually result in a loss of complexity 
somewhere else in the language.


On Tue, 15 Mar 2011, Frederick J Newmeyer wrote:

> Funknetters,
> 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 
> Thanks! I'll summarize if there is any interest.
> --fritz
> Frederick J. Newmeyer
> Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
> Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University
> [for my postal address, please contact me by e-mail]

More information about the Funknet mailing list