Creating Economical Morphosyntactic Patterns in Language Change <sup>*</sup>

Martin Haspelmath

in Linguistic Universals and Language Change

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780199298495
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191711442 | DOI:
Creating Economical Morphosyntactic Patterns in Language Change                                                     *

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This chapter presents five main points. First is that a very large number of morphosyntactic implicational universals can be explained by invoking economic motivation: more frequently used expressions are shorter than semantically similar, but more rarely used expressions, because they are more predictable. Second, all universal morphosyntactic asymmetries are economically motivated. Third, economical patterns are created by speakers in language use, and when innovative patterns spread through the community, they are manifested in the results of language change. Fourth, there are at least three different diachronic paths through which economical patterns arise: differential phonological reduction, differential expansion of a new construction, and selective analogical change. Fifth, one obvious possible diachronic path does not seem to be well attested: differential morphosyntactic reduction. However, this generalization is problematic, because morphosyntactic reduction is not easy to differentiate from phonological reduction, and counter-examples have been noted.

Keywords: universal asymmetrical morphosyntactic patterns; expected associations; expected patterns; diachrony; language

Chapter.  9442 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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