Chapter

Introduction

John Whitman, Dianne Jonas and Andrew Garrett

in Grammatical Change

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199582624
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731068 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582624.003.0001
Introduction

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As research on syntactic change within a broadly generative framework enters its fifth decade, it is possible to look back at the development and accomplishments of this enterprise. Three publications which appeared in the late 1970s serve as a useful demarcation of its beginning: the collection of papers in Li (1977), David Lightfoot's (1979) book, and Lightfoot's (1979) review of the Li volume. The three features that Lightfoot criticizes are the absence of a careful formal description of the synchronic stages referenced in the diachronic analysis, reliance on assumptions about reconstructed stages of a language, and a focus on independent diachronic principles and constraints on ‘diachronic processes’. The methodology of diachronic generative syntax as it has developed over the past four decades is closely based on Lightfoot's injunctions. Some theoretical assumptions change, but the methodology has remained remarkably consistent. Thus, while the chapters in this volume represent a broad theoretical range within the general rubric of a formal approach to language changes, their methodology hews largely to the basic scheme, which are outlined in this introductory chapter. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords: syntactic change; diachronic generative syntax; Lightfood; diachronic analysis

Chapter.  5354 words. 

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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