25.3043, Review: Historical Linguistics; Syntax; Typology: Josephson & S=?UTF-8?Q?=C3=B6hrman_?=(2013)

The LINGUIST List linguist at linguistlist.org
Thu Jul 24 17:43:57 UTC 2014

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3043. Thu Jul 24 2014. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 25.3043, Review: Historical Linguistics; Syntax; Typology: Josephson & Söhrman (2013)

Moderators: Damir Cavar, Eastern Michigan U <damir at linguistlist.org>
            Malgorzata E. Cavar, Eastern Michigan U <gosia at linguistlist.org>

Reviews: reviews at linguistlist.org
Anthony Aristar <aristar at linguistlist.org>
Helen Aristar-Dry <hdry at linguistlist.org>
Mateja Schuck, U of Wisconsin Madison

Homepage: http://linguistlist.org

Do you want to donate to LINGUIST without spending an extra penny? Bookmark
the Amazon link for your country below; then use it whenever you buy from

USA: http://www.amazon.com/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlist-20
Britain: http://www.amazon.co.uk/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlist-21
Germany: http://www.amazon.de/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlistd-21
Japan: http://www.amazon.co.jp/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlist-22
Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlistc-20
France: http://www.amazon.fr/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=linguistlistf-21

For more information on the LINGUIST Amazon store please visit our
FAQ at http://linguistlist.org/amazon-faq.cfm.

Editor for this issue: Malgorzata Cavar <gosia at linguistlist.org>

Visit LL's Multitree project for over 1000 trees dynamically generated
from scholarly hypotheses about language relationships:

Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2014 13:43:08
From: Anish Koshy [<elanish at gmail.com>' <anish at efluniversity.ac.in>]
Subject: Diachronic and Typological Perspectives on Verbs

E-mail this message to a friend:
Discuss this message: 

Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-3225.html

EDITOR: Folke  Josephson
EDITOR: Ingmar  Söhrman
TITLE: Diachronic and Typological Perspectives on Verbs
SERIES TITLE: Studies in Language Companion Series 134
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Anish Koshy, English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad


The volume is organized as a collection of 15 papers along with a brief
introductory note from the editors Ingmar Söhrman and Folke Josephson. This
volume is a sequel to an earlier volume Interdependence of Synchronic and
Diachronic Analysis (2008) by the same editors. While the earlier volume
focused on the issues of tense, aspect and mood in terms of their conceptual
parallels and diachronic relations, the present volume apart from taking up
further questions on modality also focuses on issues of evolution of
grammatical systems with respect to the verb.

Gerd V.M. Haverling’s paper “On tense and mood in conditional clauses from
Early to Late Latin” focuses on a diachronic study of the loss of distinction
in the temporal reference of the subjunctive and indicative from Classical
Latin to Late Latin in conditional clauses, in the process tracing the
additional functionalities that past tense markers take up, like representing
hypothetical situations and counterfactuality as a result of

Judith Josephson's paper “The fate of the subjunctive in late Middle Persian”
also takes up the loss of the subjunctive, especially in subordinate clauses
in late Middle Persian, where it has been reduced to mere formulaic uses. The
loss is paralleled by grammaticalization of the preverb /be/ in an expanded
/be/+VERB construction, which eventually takes over the role played by the
subjunctive, namely, expressing volition, possibility and future. Structural
changes that follow the eventual loss include reanalysis/incorporation of the
finite verb of the subordinate into the main clause with the indicative also
having taken over some of the functions of the subjunctive.

Nadezhda Zorikhina Nilsson’s paper “The negated imperative in Russian and
other Slavic languages: Aspectual and modal meanings” explores the effect of
negation on the use of the perfective aspect in Imperative clauses and
hypothesizes that the replacement of one system by another in many of these
languages is to be understood in terms of the general typological principle of
opposition between marked and unmarked forms, with the perfective as the
marked and the imperfective as the unmarked form. The perfective attains in
these languages the specialized meaning of expressing inverse imperatives.

William B. McGregor's paper “Grammaticalisation of verbs into temporal and
modal markers in Australian languages” looks at the development of certain
temporal and modal categories as a result of the grammaticalization of certain
construction types like the compound verb constructions (CVC), complement
constructions and auxiliary constructions. The CVCs often follow the
typologically attested patterns of first delexicalization of one of the verbs
in a CVC and then the delexicalized verb turning into a derivational affix.
Complement constructions involving the verbs 'say,' 'do,' etc., are seen as
developing modal semantics as a result of codification of pragmatic
implicatures. Auxiliary constructions also show widely attested path of
lexical verbs becoming auxiliary verbs and auxiliary verbs becoming
inflectional markers.

Atle Grøun's paper “Aspect and tense in counterfactual main clauses: Fake or
real?” investigates what are called fake and real aspectual markers
(imperfective) in counterfactuals in Romance and Slavic languages (French and
Russian, mainly), where the fake imperfective is seen in French, that is, the
imperfective makes no semantic contribution, while the real is seen in Russian
counterfactuals. Moving from these already established facts, the author
investigates the case of certain counterfactuals in both Russian and French,
where the imperfective becomes fake in certain irrealis contexts. The author's
analysis gives an Optimality Theory based competition analysis for Russian,
leading to the choice of the best form-meaning association, which is however
operational in a setting of pragmatic strengthening based on associative
learning. The form-meaning association is conventionalized, developing
stereotypical interpretations. The French case is only briefly dealt with.

Lars Johanson's brief paper “On non-canonical modal clause junction in Turkic”
probes if the non-canonical Altaic phenomenon observed in Turkic clause
junctures is merely a result of contact induced changes with Indo-European or
whether the language internally available device of using the subjunctive
marker as an adjunctor when juxtaposing two independent clauses, is
responsible for the apparently non-Altaic structure.

Ingmar Söhrman's paper “Reference, aspectuality and modality in ante-preterit
(pluperfect) in Romance languages” takes an in-depth look at the
syntactic-functional and the morphological-formal side of the ante-preterit
tense in Romance languages, which has been often taken to be the same as
expressing pluperfect tense. Going beyond the accepted definition of
pluperfect as referring to an event that happens before another event in the
past, the author investigates the subtle referential modal and aspectual
attributes of the ante-preterit in Romance languages and compares it to
typologically diverse languages like Greek, Slavic and other European
languages. The author concludes that in terms of aspect, ante-preterit is used
both as a past imperfect as well as in perfective function and in terms of
modality/pragmatic functions, its role is understood as expressing (a) change
of referential world, (b) enhancement of modifying illocutionary force.
Typologically, the Romance languages in this respect do show parallels with
Slavic and Germanic languages.

Birte Stengaard's brief paper “Subjects and objects with Latin habere and some
of its Romance descendants” takes a look at the argument structure (subject
and object) of the Latin verb ‘habere’ in 4th century texts and its survival
in modern Spanish and Portuguese as a grammatical element expressing
temporality as an auxiliary, having lost its lexical status. In the historical
texts ‘habere’ is also seen to express possession (as in Ibero-Romance). The
diachronic processes involved in this semantic and syntactic evolution shows
the verb developing an abstract sense expressing impersonality, modality, etc.
The historical texts also give no structural evidence of its possible
disappearance in the future and may explain its survival till date for
structural reasons.

Peter Bekker in “Diachrony and typology in the history of Cree (Algonquian,
Algic)”  studies the unusual typological features of Cree (and also other
Algonquian languages) by applying internal reconstruction. Three unusual
features focused on, include (a) the prefixal and suffixal expression of some
semantic categories, (b) parallels between verbal and nominal morphology, and,
(c) a lack of symmetry in the ordering of selected morphological and free
grammatical elements, like adpositions, demonstratives, etc. Internal
reconstruction is carried out drawing parallels with distantly related two
Algic languages even hypothesizing a common origin for all; parallels are also
drawn with Kutenai and Salish from the Pacific Coast, with speculations of
common origins. The NP-VP parallels are explained by hypothesizing a clearer
distinction in the past between nouns and verbs. The prefixal and suffixal
marking of the same categories is understood in terms of retention (suffixes)
and innovation (prefixes), suggesting a development away from suffixes to
prefixes; the third aspect of lack of symmetry is left inconclusive.
Considering the languages seem to be in a mixed state, both diffusion as well
as genetic links with languages showing similar features is suggested.
Evidence is also taken from archaeology and human genetics. The structure of
Proto Algonquian is also highlighted based on internal reconstruction with
different possible stages of evolution.

Looking into the development of Aorist indicative aspect into a tense marker
representing immediate/ recent past in Vedic, Eystein Dahl’s paper
“Typological change in Vedic: The development of the Aorist from a perfective
past to an immediate past” discusses the diachronic development of this marker
through four stages of Vedic (Early Vedic, Early Middle Vedic, Middle Vedic
and Late Vedic). Arguing that use of perfective to mark recent past is
typologically a common phenomenon, Dahl looks for typological clues through
Vedic examples in the development of this type of past marking. Through
various stages, the aorist indicative is seen to mark perfective aspect as
well as absolute and/or relative past tense to an immediate past reading with
loss of aspectual meaning. Dahl suggests that this is a result of
conventionalization of a pragmatic implicature, that of the association of
perfective with proximate past.

Ailbhe Ó. Corráin’s paper “On the evolution of verbal aspect in insular
Celtic”  examines the development of periphrastic aspectual markers in Insular
Celtic, namely, introspective, retrospective and prospective formations, from
a state where there were none, in the process trying to look for typological
clues that could explain the development of such systems in natural languages.
These markers, which develop from locative markers, are understood cognitively
as evolution of spatially organized construct of time. Motivations for the
development of these systems is suggested as a result of pressure to develop
imperfective marking in a system where all finite verbs were punctual and
categories of preterite, imperative and future were all primarily perfective.
The development of the aspectual system also follows a specific order; some
latter forms necessarily requiring some others to be in place already (in
accordance with the principle of diachronic stratification).

Kjartan G. Ottoson in “The anticausative and related categories in the Old
Germanic languages” traces the development of the anti-causative in languages
that did not have them, examining various branches of Old Germanic including
Old Nordic, Gothic, West Germanic, Old High German, etc., and explains it not
only as an attempt by these languages to systematize the
transitive-intransitive distinction but also as a transition typologically
from a system where aspect was important to one where valency becomes more
valued. The contributions of various aspects/processes in this evolution is
also highlighted, including the emergence of middle categories constructed
with the reflexive pronoun, the opaqueness of the originally aspectual
(inchoative marking) ‘na(n)’-verbs, flexibility of the middle reflexives,
restriction to only ‘passive’ use of the Indo European Mediopassive in Gothic
and survival only in Germanic, and the development of labile verbs in English
(e.g. ‘open’ which can be both transitive and intransitive) as a result of
lacking both the middle reflexives and the ‘na(n)’-verbs. The anticausative
element is argued to have been inherently present in both the
language-systems, namely, the ones with the na(n)-verbs as well as those with
middle reflexives. The excessive multifunctionality of the causative ‘ja-’ in
Proto Germanic is also taken as a contributing factor for the development of
an anticausative system, as the system required a better means of
distinguishing transitives from their intransitive counterparts.

Folke Josephson in “Directionality, case and actionality in Hittite” looks at
the role of two enclitic particles,  ‘-kan’ and ‘-san,’ through Old to Middle
to modern Hittite, where they are used as actional modifiers expressing
punctuality, telicity and direction. These particles interacted with
directional adverbs, preverbs and postpositions at various stages of the
language and affected their meanings with their own inherent meanings of
goal/directed path (‘-san’) and source (‘-kan’). These enclitics are also
shown to express the abstract link between case and verbal actionality. These
also contribute because of their modal functions like accomplishment,
limitation, etc. A comparison with similar directional verbs in Latin occupies
the major part of the paper and is used as supporting evidence.

Kristine Gunn Eide’s brief paper “The case of unaccusatives in Classical
Portuguese” evaluates the effect of the diachronic change in classical
Portuguese to Modern Portuguese in terms of being a topic prominent language
to a subject prominent one, in the process shifting the subject from  their
post-verbal position where they received case and agreed with the verb, to a
pre-verbal position leading to the loss of nominative case on post-verbal
subject arguments of unaccusatives and passives, even while it offers the
nominative to the pre-verbal empty expletive pronouns. The paper is a
generative framework based analysis of syntactic restructuring. The
post-verbal subjects of unaccusatives often are either unmarked for case or
even resemble objects or may receive other case markings like partitive.

The last paper “Some historical developments of the verb in Neo-Aramaic”by
Geoffrey Khan, inquires into some general aspects of the development of
Ergative syntax in Neo-Aramaic, initially due to contact with Iranian Kurdish
dialects and then showing/taking its own developmental path with differences
in Jewish and Christian dialects in the same regions. The feature that is
taken up for a brief analysis is the finite verbal forms in their perfective
and imperfective forms, which have been eliminated and have been replaced by
passive and active particles. Comparisons and contrast are drawn with other
forms of Aramaic and with earlier forms as well.


Grammaticalization, as is expected in a volume on diachronic issues, forms a
major theme in multiple papers in this volume, including those by Haverling,
Josephson, and, McGregor. McGregor raises a very significant issue when he
highlights the difficulty in assigning motivation for structural changes,
arguing that all grammaticalization cannot be looked upon as essentially a
cognitive process in nature, that is, a metaphorical transfer. Instead, his
argument that a semiotic understanding of grammaticalization is often missing
in studies which only focus on the loss of meaning of the source but do not
talk about the gaining of meaning of the end product of grammaticalization
which may not often involve cognitive/metaphorical transfers is indeed

Structural reasons for change form the backdrop of many papers, including
debates on how certain structural patterns are found to be deficient or
typologically rare or non-confirming, that is, being marked (Nilsson), and
therefore assisting a process of change. The property of unmarked forms taking
on more and more roles with marked forms becoming more and more specialized is
insightfully discussed by Nilsson. McGregor, Dahl, Corráin as well as Söhrman
very usefully highlight the central thematic emphasis of the volume, by
looking at structural change as not being random but as attestations of
typological patterns of development and change, thus emphasizing on change as
a process and not merely as an event and looking at language evolution as
fundamentally goal-oriented. Josephson is right in arguing that languages give
structural cues on whether certain features are stable or will be lost
eventually. Since linguistic structures form a system, any loss is seen to be
compensated by multiple means including by reanalysis of existing forms. At
times, as Ottoson argues, change is motivated by a desire to systematize -- at
times a lack of a feature, at other times to bring clarity in a situation of
excessive multifunctionality of certain markers. Even when Johanson highlights
change as a result of contact, the emphasis on looking for language internal
devices or reasons for change is not lost. One cannot say with certainty if a
language can resist change at all costs, but the presence of language internal
favourable factors leading to change must be seen as constituting an important
environment for change. This is confirmed by Stengaard's paper, which talks
about the persistence of certain features due to the lack of any structural
evidence suggesting a possible disappearance. Dahl also raises the stakes when
he attempts to show how far the Vedic stages/processes are representative of
the stages in natural languages, thus attempting a more global understanding
of change in terms of universal principles of change.

The role of codification of pragmatic implicatures in the development of modal
semantics (McGregor), conventalization of form-meaning associations in a
setting of pragmatic strengthening (Grøun) as well as eventual move from an
aspectual reading to a tense reading (Dahl), highlights an often ignored role
played by the pragmatics of language use in the process of diachronic
development of forms.

Even though the book’s title seemingly suggests that two different
perspectives would be used to study verbs, the reader soon realizes that the
papers actually embark on mostly a diachronic study of various aspects of
verbs, mostly TAM categories but also touching upon preverbal, adverbial
markers, etc. It is assumed throughout the various analyses that typological
studies that only look at languages as they are in their current state can
only probably provide a shallow analysis, description or explanation and
therefore a diachronic perspective is assumed necessary for any meaningful
typological study. Structural similarities or patterns that come about are not
necessarily historical accidents but are often driven and guided by language
internal factors – at times a loss of markers that distinguished forms, or at
other times, a gradual loss of certain forms due to their marked nature in the
system or their disuse. Sometimes structural changes could mark the end of
certain forms. Contact with other languages, diffusion of certain features in
contact areas are all touched upon in the papers. Does the diachronic approach
coupled with comparative approach provide a better solution? Does dwelling on
diachronic principles make certain explanations for typological phenomenon
easier or stronger? The papers argue for these positions forcefully.

The papers present a very interesting mix of approaches and theoretical
persuasions, with Eide’s paper using a generative analysis of syntactic
restructuring and Grøun’s paper using an Optimality Theory-based competition
analysis leading to the choice of best forms, with multiple papers emphasizing
on conventionalization/concretization of pragmatic implicatures and many on
the usual aspects of grammaticalization like expansion, specialization,
delexicalization, contact-induced changes, the role of structural strength in
the stability and maintenance of certain features, the role of cognitive
processes like ease of processing, etc. in determining stability/instability
of features, development of abstract meanings, retention and innovation of
features, etc. The purely diachronic papers also follow sound principles of
historical linguistics in looking for internal reasons for change and seeking
comparisons with other languages typologically to support claims of diachronic
change by showing parallels in other languages. Attempts at internal
reconstruction are supplemented with typological comparisons. The importance
of diffusion and genetic links is also highlighted. The corroboration from
archaeology and human genetics is also an important step in forming stronger
claims (Bekker). The various positions taken in evolution and growth of
languages and the tensions between them are well articulated through papers
that question an exclusively cognitive basis for change and those that argue
for a cognitive basis. The importance of language-internal pressure to
systematize its oppositions and processes leading to change is also equally
highlighted. Thus, over-all the papers provide a rich menu of possibilities in
the analysis of diachronic as well as typological aspects of verbs. The
language families covered in the analyses are quite impressive and
distributed. The papers are not organized in any particular thematic patterns
or subsections. This review has tried to bunch papers together that deal with
a particular thematic principle, keeping in view the broader theme of the
volume as envisaged by its title.

Thus overall, the volume provides a good combination of shorter papers that
present a preliminary hypothesis and open up a larger window for more detailed
and parallel analysis, as well as longer research papers that provide detailed
analyses of verbal morphosyntax in diverse settings. Both students of
historical linguistics and typological studies will benefit from the
confluence of ideas and synthesis of practices. Also, the fact that the
inferences drawn from diachronic studies are used to provide explanations for
typological phenomena and vice-versa provides a good model for a synthetic


I have worked on the Mon-Khmer languages Pnar and Khasi spoken in Meghalaya in
the Northeastern region of India and submitted a dissertation on the
pronominal clitics in these languages at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New
Delhi. I am presently working on my Doctoral thesis on 'The typology of
clitics in the Austroasiatic languages of India' while also teaching at the
English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India. My career
interests include working on the morphosyntax of lesser-studied languages of
India from a typological perspective.

LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3043	
Visit LL's Multitree project for over 1000 trees dynamically generated
from scholarly hypotheses about language relationships:

More information about the Linguist mailing list