21.4711, Calls: Historical Linguistics/Japan

Tue Nov 23 17:29:56 UTC 2010

LINGUIST List: Vol-21-4711. Tue Nov 23 2010. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 21.4711, Calls: Historical Linguistics/Japan

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Date: 22-Nov-2010
From: Muriel Norde [m.norde at rug.nl]
Subject: Exaptation

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Date: Tue, 23 Nov 2010 12:28:34
From: Muriel Norde [m.norde at rug.nl]
Subject: Exaptation

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Full Title: Exaptation 

Date: 25-Jul-2011 - 30-Jul-2011
Location: Osaka, Japan 
Contact Person: Muriel Norde
Meeting Email: m.norde at rug.nl

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics 

Call Deadline: 15-Jan-2011 

Meeting Description:

Workshop on exaptation at the 20th International Conference on Historical Linguistics 2011 

Call for Papers:

Although some morphological changes seem to obey general tendencies, as formulated for instance by Kury?owicz or Ma?czak (see Hock 1986, ch.10) or Van Loon (2005), most of these tendencies can just as easily be violated. Diachronic morphology is largely idiosyncratic (Joseph 1998). Morphological paradigms appear to be ripped up at random in order to establish 'local generalizations' (Joseph 1992). One particular way in which unpredictable changes come about is through 'bricolage' with junk morphology, which goes under the name of exaptation (Lass 1990, 1997: 316ff.).

Exaptation is a concept that was first used in evolutionary biology, 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. In linguistics, exaptation is defined as follows:

'Say a language has a grammatical distinction of some sort, coded by means of morphology. Then say this distinction is jettisoned, PRIOR TO the loss of the morphological material that codes it. This morphology is now, functionally speaking, junk; and there are three things that can in principle be done with it:

(i) It can be dumped entirely;
(ii) It can be kept as marginal garbage or nonfunctional/nonexpressive residue (suppletion, 'irregularity');
(iii) It can be kept, but instead of being relegated as in (ii), it can be used for something else, perhaps just as systematic.(...)
Option (iii) is linguistic exaptation.'' (Lass 1990: 81-82)

Lass originally understood exaptation in a rather narrow sense. First, the term exaptation was reserved for changes affecting functionless (or 'junk') morphology. Second, in order to qualify as exaptation, the new function of a morpheme needed to be entirely novel. In Lass's own words: 'Exaptation then 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'.'

Both criteria have been criticized. With regard to the first criterion, Vincent (1995: 435), Giacalone Ramat (1998), Smith (2006) and Willis (ms.) 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 (ms.) among others.

In this workshop, we aim to come to terms with exaptation. Apart from specific case studies drawing on original data, we welcome papers that address the following issues:

(1) Do we need exaptation in diachronic morphology, or does it reduce to more traditional mechanisms such as reanalysis and analogy, as e.g. De Cuypere (2005) argues?

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

(3) Does exaptation presuppose irregularity and unpredictability? If so, does this entail that exaptation is language-specific (as argued by Heine 2003:173), and that cross-linguistics generalizations are not possible? See, however, Narrog (2007) for evidence to the contrary.

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

(5) 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?

(6) 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)?

(7) 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).

(8) 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)?

(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)? 


Muriel Norde (University of Groningen) & Freek Van de Velde (University of Leuven)

Our proposal for a workshop on exaptation at ICHL 2011 (Osaka, Japan), has now been accepted by the ICHL Scientific Committee. Abstracts for this workshop have to be submitted directly to the ICHL website (http://www.ichl2011.com/call_for_papers.html) no later than January 15, 2011. Please mention the workshop title in the appropriate box on the abstract submission form, and your abstract will be forwarded to us. Notification of acceptance will be sent within two weeks upon submission. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!

Freek Van de Velde and Muriel Norde


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.
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. 301-314.
Heine, B. 2003. On degrammaticalization. In: B.J. Blake & K. Burridge (eds.), Historical linguistics 2001. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 163-179.
Hock, H.H. 1986. Principles of historical linguistics. Berlin: de Gruyter.
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. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Joseph, B.D. 1992. Diachronic explanation: Putting the speaker back into the picture. In: G.W. Davis & G.K. Iverson (eds.), Explanations in historical linguistics. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 123-144.
Joseph, B.D. 1998. Diachronic morphology. In: A. Spencer & A.M. Zwicky (eds.), Handbook of morphology. Oxford: Blackell. 351-373.
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. H√ľning, A. Verhagen, U. Vogl & T. van der Wouden (eds.), Nederlands tussen Duits en Engels. Leiden: Stichting Neerlandistiek Leiden. 47-69.
Van Loon, J. 2005. Principles of historical morphology. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter.
Vincent, N. 1995. Exaptation and grammaticalization. In: H. Andersen (ed.), Historical linguistics 1993. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 433-445.
Willis, D. Manuscript. Degrammaticalization and obsolescent morphology: Evidence from Slavonic.

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