Usage‐based theory and grammaticalization

Joan L. Bybee

in The Oxford Handbook of Grammaticalization

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199586783
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Usage‐based theory and grammaticalization

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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This article treats grammaticalisation in the context of usage-based grammar. It examines how usage effects propel grammaticalisation on the phonetic, semantic, and syntactic dimensions, focusing on structural changes. It analyses the chunking of contiguous units, phonetic reduction due to neuromotor automatisation, semantic generalization, pragmatic inferencing, and growing autonomy with its loss of compositionality and analysability. It shows that the loss of analysability is the mechanism behind decategorialisation and reduction in constituent structure and argues that reanalysis in grammaticalisation is unidirectional and results in a loss of constituent structure.

Keywords: grammaticalisation; usage-based grammar; phonetic reduction; semantic; syntactic dimensions; structural changes; neuromotor automatisation; pragmatic inferencing; decategorialisation

Article.  4015 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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