[Lingtyp] "grammatically encoded" - answer to Christian - preprint attached

Kasper Boye boye at hum.ku.dk
Tue Mar 14 09:49:37 UTC 2023

Dear Christian,

Regarding focusability

The focusability criterion (like the other criteria) depends on language- and construction-specific means for focusing, and different means come with different limitations. Indeed, the criterion may in many cases be impossible to apply. Another criterion (not mentioned in Boye & Harder (2012), but in later publications) is modifiability; again, we are not the first to suggest that modifiability can be used to distinguish lexical from grammatical elements, but the criterion can straightforwardly be derived from the claim that grammatical elements are by convention discursively secondary.

As already mentioned, there are also limitations to stress as a means for investigating focusablity. For instance, stress is not always found exactly on the focused element. Your example with would seems to belong to the group of exceptions that fall under verum focus. Therefore, your example does not show that would can be focused, and hence it does not show that would is lexical. In principle, however, it is perfectly possible that some modal verbs, or variants thereof, are lexical. In Boye (2010), I argued that this is the case with some Danish modal verbs. In Boye & Bastiaanse (2018) we showed that even a rather course-grained distinction between lexical and grammatical modal verb variants in Dutch is significant for the description of agrammatic speech: the proportion of modal verb items classified as grammatical relative to items classified as lexical was significantly lower in agrammatic speech than in the speech of non-brain-damaged controls (see Boye et al. 2023 for an overview of similar studies, and a usage-based theory of agrammatism).

Regarding your proposal for a definition of grammatical status

I would be very interested in seeing your detailed proposal, but my basic problem with your proposal is not that it looks circular, but that it looks entirely structural. I prefer a functional-cognitive, usage-based definition that entails a rationale for the existence of grammar.

Regarding grammaticalization as a gradual phenomenon

I agree that grammaticalization is a gradual phenomenon, but not that this entails that grammatical status is a matter of degree. In the attached preprint (paper to appear in Transactions of the Philological Society), I argue that on a strict understanding, grammaticalization is embedded in at least three continua (a conventionalization continuum, a splitting continuum and a discourse prominence continuum), but does not presuppose or show any evidence of lexical-grammatical cline.

Best wishes,



Boye, K. 2010. 'Raising verbs and auxiliaries in a functional theory of grammatical status'. K. Boye & E. Engberg-Pedersen (eds.). Language usage and language structure. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. 73-104.

Boye, K. To appear. 'Grammaticalization as conventionalization of discursively secondary status: Deconstructing the lexical-grammatical continuum'. Transactions of the Philological Society.
Boye, K., & R. Bastiaanse. 2018. 'Grammatical versus lexical words in theory and aphasia: Integrating linguistics and neurolinguistics'. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 3.1, 29. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.436

Boye, K., R. Bastiaanse, P. Harder & S. Martínez-Ferreiro. 2023. 'Agrammatism in a usage-based theory of grammatical status: Impaired combinatorics, compensatory prioritization, or both?' Journal of Neurolinguistics 65, 101108.

Fra: Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> På vegne af Christian Lehmann
Sendt: 10. marts 2023 21:07
Til: lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org
Emne: Re: [Lingtyp] "grammatically encoded" - answer to Christian

Dear Kasper,

the clearest cases of focusing are cleft-sentences. At the same time, it is clear that many sentence components are not amenable to clefting, and many of those that are not are nevertheless lexical rather than grammatical. Thus I suppose focusability will not, for your purposes, be operationalized as amenability to clefting.

Thus you need to consider milder forms of focusing. If contrastive stress counts, then it remains true that many items that have otherwise been regarded as grammatical can bear contrastive stress. Think of exchanges such as this:

Will you do it? - I would do it if [so and so].

In my understanding, what is focused here is exactly the conditional modality, so what is stressed is its expression.

My attempt at a definition may seem circular until I spell out how constraints on the distribution of items and classes of items are formulated and quantified. (It has probably been done somewhere in the literature.) This is independent of a prior definition of 'grammar'; it just refers to cooccurrence of items in constructions. When I have spelled out some cases, I may take the liberty of sending you the URL.

Allow me to repeat that if you take grammaticalization seriously as a gradual phenomenon, then grammatical status, too, is not a yes-or-no matter, but rather one of degree. Consequently, no single binary criterion like focusability will suffice for its operationalization.



Prof. em. Dr. Christian Lehmann
Rudolfstr. 4
99092 Erfurt



christianw_lehmann at arcor.de<mailto:christianw_lehmann at arcor.de>



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