The diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle

Elliott Lash

in Parameter Theory and Linguistic Change

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199659203
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745188 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Diachronic and Historical Linguistics

The diachronic development of the Irish comparative particle

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This chapter is a case study in syntactic reanalysis leading to grammaticalization. It investigates the history of Modern Irish comparative particle 'than', and shows how it has developed phonologically, morphologically, and syntactically from an Old Irish phrase ol/ind daäs 'beyond how it is'. Two reanalyses are proposed: first, the verb daäs in T is reanalyzed as C in gapping contexts; second, C (daäs) is cliticized to P (ol) and reanalyzed as a morphological part of P in subcomparatives. The chapter shows that the first reanalysis can be characterized as formal grammaticalization, while the second does not appear formal grammaticalization (upward reanalysis), but merely 'morphologization'; although it is grammaticalization in the strictly functional sense. Besides the two reanalyses, the chapter explains several surface extensions of these reanalyses: loss of tense marking, changes in case marking, and exaptation/analogical reformation of verbal agreement marking as the comparative marker became more particle-like.

Keywords: syntactic reanalysis; grammaticalization; Irish; comparative clause; subcomparative; syntactic reconstruction; exaptation

Chapter.  7248 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics

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