CfP Exaptation follow-up

Muriel Norde m.norde at
Wed Oct 26 19:52:28 UTC 2011


Call for papers: Exaptation in Language Change -- Constraining the Concept

Call deadline

November 8, 2011


Freek Van de Velde, University of Leuven, 
Freek.VanDeVelde at <mailto:Freek.VanDeVelde at>

Muriel Norde, University of Groningen, M.Norde at 
<mailto:M.Norde at>

call for papers

This is a workshop propsal to be submitted to the 45th Annual Meeting of 
the /Societas Linguistica Europaea, /to be held at the University of 
Stockholm, 29 August - 1 September 2012.

If you are interested in participating in this workshop, please send 
both of us a title + a 300 word abstract by November 8, 2011, so we can 
submit our proposal (including a provisional list of participants and 
abstracts) to the SLE Conference Manager by November 15. If our proposal 
is accepted, participants will be invited to submit a full abstract (500 
words) by January 15. All abstracts will be reviewed by the convenors as 
well as by the SLE Scientific Committee.

Conference website

Workshop description

Exaptation is a concept that was first used in evolutionary biology 
(Gould & Vrba 1982), to refer to co-optation of a certain trait for a 
new function.A typical example is the use of feathers, originally 
serving a thermo-regulatory function, for flight. The term was borrowed 
into linguistics by Roger Lass (1990) for a specific type of 
morpholoical change in which "junk" morphemes come to serve different 
function. In Lass's own words, exapation is "the opportunistic 
co-optation of a feature whose origin is unrelated or only marginally 
related to its later use. In other words (loosely) a 'conceptual 
novelty' or 'invention'." In order to meet this definition of 
exaptation, a change thus needed to satisfy two criteria: the source 
morpheme had to be functionless "junk", and its new function needed to 
be entirely novel.

Both criteria have been criticized. With regard to the first criterion, 
Vincent (1995: 435), Giacalone Ramat (1998), Smith (2006) and Willis 
(2010) pointed out difficulties with regard to the notion of junk. And 
indeed, Lass later stretched his notion of exaptation, admitting that 
linguistic exaptation - just like biological exaptation - could also 
affect non-junk morphology (see Lass 1997: 318), to the effect that the 
old and the new function may co-exist. Doubt has also been raised with 
regard to the second criterion, the novelty of the new function, which 
is central to the notion of exaptation according to Lass (1990: 82) (see 
also Norde 2001: 244, 2009: 117 and Traugott 2004). Some scholars have 
argued against the purported novelty of the function after exaptation 
(Vincent 1995: 436; Giacalone Ramat 1998, Hopper & Traugott 2003: 
135-136). If this criterion is jettisoned, we arrive at a fairly broad 
definition of exaptation, like for instance in Booij (2010: 211), who 
defines it as "[t]he re-use of morphological markers". Such a broad 
conception of exaptation is in line with the notion in evolutionary 
biology, where neither of the two criteria is decisive for the 
application of the term to shifts in function, but the question then 
arises whether this does not make the concept vacuous (see De Cuypere 2005).

Despite these criticisms, exaptation has been used as a convenient label 
for morphological changes that at first sight seem to proceed 
unpredictably, e.g. by running counter to grammaticalization clines (see 
Norde 2009: 115-118). It has been applied to various cases of 
morphological change, discussed in Lass (1990), Norde (2002), Fudeman 
(2004), Van de Velde (2005, 2006), Narrog (2007), Booij (2010, ms.), 
Willis (2010) among others.

In this workshop, we aim to explore if exaptation is a useful concept in 
language change and if it is, how it can be constrained so as to avoid 
over-application. Apart from specific case studies drawing on original 
data, we welcome papers that address the following issues:

(1)Do we need the concept of exaptation in historical linguistics, or 
does it reduce to more traditional mechanisms such as reanalysis and 
analogy (De Cuypere 2005)?

(2)What is the relation between exaptation and grammaticalization? Do 
they refer to fundamentally different kinds of changes (Vincent 1995), 
is exaptation a final stage of grammaticalization (Greenberg 1991, 
Traugott 2004), or are exaptation and grammaticalization just two 
different labels for the same type of change? After all, both processes 
involve reanalysis (Narrog 2007), both processes can come about through 
pragmatic strengthening (see Croft 2000: 126-130). Furthermore, if the 
old and new function of the exaptatum co-exist (see above) and if the 
new function is related to the old one, then exaptation involves 
'layering' and 'persistence', respectively (see Van de Velde 2006: 
61-62), which are also key features of grammaticalization (see Hopper 1991).

(3)What is the relation between exaptation and degrammaticalization? 
Does exaptation always entail some sort of 'degrammaticalization' (as 
argued by Heine 2003 and arguably Narrog 2007: 9, 18), or does 
exaptation often, but not always, go together with degrammaticalization 
(Norde 2009: 118)?

(4)Does exaptation only apply to morphology (Heine 2003: 173), or is it 
relevant to syntactic change as well, as Brinton & Stein (1995) have argued?

(5)Is exaptation language-specific (as argued by Heine 2003: 173, but 
see Narrogfor evidence to the contrary)?

(6)Does exaptation happen primarily in cases of 'system disruption', 
such as typological word order change or deflection (see Norde 2002: 49, 
60, 61)?

(7)How should we define the concept of 'novelty', and is it a useful 
criterion for a change to be qualified as exaptation? Currently, there 
seem to be different views in the literature on what is exactly 
understood by a 'new' function. Does this mean (a) an entirely new 
category in the grammar, (b) a function unrelated to the morpheme's old 
function, or (c) a different though perhaps not totally unrelated 
function from the old function?

(8)Is exaptation infrequent (Heine 2003:174, Traugott 2004) and 
non-recurrent (as argued by Heine 2003: 172)? Or can one morpheme 
undergo several successive stages of exaptation (as argued by Giacalone 
Ramat 1998: 110-111 with regard to the -/sk/- suffix and by Van de Velde 
2006 with regard to the Germanic adjective inflection)?

(9)Is exaptation the same thing as what Greenberg (1991) understands by 
'regrammaticalization' and as what Croft (2000) understands by 
'hypoanalysis', or are there significant differences between these 
concepts? And what is the overlap with related concept such as 
'functional renewal' (Brinton & Stein 1995)?

(10)Morphosyntactic change is often /constrained/ by the overall 
grammatical structure of a language, in particular when a 
grammaticalizing element provides a new way of expressing an older 
formal arrangement (see Heath 1997, 1998). Does this also hold for 
exaptation? To what extent are exaptation processes triggered, 
influenced, directed or constrained by the overall structure of the 
language in which they take place? Can exaptation generally be 
considered as restorative change, whereby language users 
opportunistically seize on available morphology to preserve the system, 
or is it the other way around, and do language users try to attribute 
meaning to functionless morphology, irrespective of the question whether 
this new meaning aligns with the older grammatical system?


Booij, G. 2010 (to appear). /Construction morphology/. Oxford: Oxford 
University Press.

Booij, G. manuscript. Recycling morphology: Case endings as markers of 
Dutch constructions. 

Brinton, L. & D. Stein. 1995. Functional renewal. In: H. Andersen (ed.), 
/Historical Linguistics 1993/. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 33-47.

Croft, W. 2000. /Explaining language change. An evolutionary approach. 
/Harlow: Longman.

De Cuypere, L. 2005. Exploring exaptation in language change. /Folia 
Linguistica Historica/ 26: 13-26.

Fudeman, K. 2004. Adjectival agreement vs. adverbal inflection in 
Balanta. /Lingua/ 114: 105-23.

Giacalone Ramat, A. 1998. Testing the boundaries of grammaticalization. 
In: A. Giacalone Ramat & P.J. Hopper (eds.), /The limits of 
grammaticalization/. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 227-270.

Gould, Stephen J. & Elizabeth S. Vrba. 1982. Exaptation: a missing term 
in the science of form. /Paleobiology/ 8:1, 4-15.

Greenberg, J.H. 1991. The last stages of grammatical elements: 
Contractive and expansive desemanticization. In: E.C. Traugott & B. 
Heine (eds.), /Approaches to grammaticalization/. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 

Heath, J. 1997. Lost wax: abrupt replacement of key morphemes in 
Australian agreement complexes. /Diachronica/ 14: 197-232.

Heath, J. 1998. Hermit crabs: formal renewal of morphology by 
phonologically mediated affix substitution. /Language/ 74: 728-759.

Heine, B. 2003. On degrammaticalization. In: B.J. Blake & K. Burridge 
(eds.), /Historical linguistics 2001/. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 163-179.

Hopper, P.J. 1991. On some principles of grammaticalization. In: E.C. 
Traugott & B. Heine (eds.), /Approaches to grammaticalization/. 
Amsterdam: Benjamins. 17-35.

Hopper, P.J. & E.C. Traugott. 2003. Grammaticalization. 2^nd edn. 
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lass, R. 1990. How to do things with junk: Exaptation in language 
evolution. /Journal of Linguistics/ 26: 79-102.

Lass, R. 1997. /Historical linguistics and language change/. Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press.

Narrog, H. 2007. Exaptation, grammaticalization, and reanalysis. 
/California Linguistic Notes/ 32 (1). 

Norde, M. 2001. Deflexion as a counterdirectional factor in grammatical 
change. /Language Sciences/ 23: 231-264.

Norde, M. 2002. The final stages of grammaticalization: Affixhood and 
beyond. In: I. Wischer & G. Diewald (eds.), /New reflections on 
grammaticalization/. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 45-81.

Norde, M. 2009. /Degrammaticalization/. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Smith, J.C. 2006. How to do things without junk: the refunctionalization 
of a pronominal subsystem between Latin and Romance. In: J.-P.Y. 
Montreuil (ed.), /New perspectives on Romance linguistics/. Volume II: 
/Phonetics, phonology and dialectology/. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 183-205.

Traugott, E.C. 2004. Exaptation and grammaticalization. In: M. Akimoto 
(ed.), /Linguistic studies based on corpora/. Tokyo: Hituzi Syobo. 133-156.

Van de Velde, F. 2005. Exaptatie en subjectificatie in de Nederlandse 
adverbiale morfologie [Exaptation and subjectification in Dutch 
adverbial morphology]. /Handelingen der Koninklijke Zuid-Nederlandse 
Maatschappij voor Taal- en Letterkunde en Geschiedenis/ 58: 105-124.

Van de Velde, F. 2006. Herhaalde exaptatie. Een diachrone analyse van de 
Germaanse adjectiefflexie [Iterative exaptation. A diachronic analysis 
of the Germanic adjectival inflection]. In: M. Hüning, A. Verhagen, U. 
Vogl & T. van der Wouden (eds.), /Nederlands tussen Duits en Engels/. 
Leiden: Stichting Neerlandistiek Leiden. 47-69.

Vincent, N. 1995. Exaptation and grammaticalization. In: H. Andersen 
(ed.), /Historical linguistics 1993/. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 433-445.

Willis, D. 2010. Degrammaticalization and obsolescent morphology: 
evidence from Slavonic. In: E. Stathi, E. Gehweiler & E. König (eds.), 
/Grammaticalization: current views and issues/. 151-178.

Prof. dr. Muriel Norde
Scandinavian Languages and Cultures
University of Groningen
P.O. Box 716
9700 AS Groningen
The Netherlands

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