The historical syntax problem:reanalysis and directionality

Andrew Garrett

in Grammatical Change

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199582624
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731068 | DOI:
The historical syntax problem:reanalysis and directionality

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


Show Summary Details


This chapter suggests that the interest in reanalysis as a mechanism of change, while rightly focusing attention on syntactic structure, also contributes to a blinkered view of diachrony. It exemplifies this view with accounts of two widely discussed changes: the Middle English emergence of for noun phrase (NP) to verb phrase (VP) infinitivals, and the Early Modern English emergence of the be going to future. These accounts illustrate an approach whose goal is not just to characterize reanalyses but to understand what lies behind them. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 3.2 comments on the modern interest in reanalysis and then treats alleged reanalysis changes as cases of analogy or grammaticalization. Section 3.3 shows that radical reanalysis in syntactic change has been overemphasized, and that most of the changes involved in one well-known alleged case (the English for NP to VP pattern) are broadly analogical. Section 3.4 proposes a new account of the emergence of the English be going to future. This case shows how the combinatorial properties of a source pattern give rise to the properties of an emergent one in grammaticalization. Section 3.5 concludes.

Keywords: syntactic reanalysis; syntactic structure; diachrony; Middle English; infinitivals; Early Modern English; be going; syntactic change

Chapter.  9502 words. 

Subjects: Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.