Grammaticalization and language evolution

Andrew D. M. Smith

in The Oxford Handbook of Grammaticalization

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Grammaticalization and language evolution

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • Language Evolution



This article examines the relevance of grammaticalisation to language evolution. It discusses the evolution of language, the pathways of grammaticalisation, the cognitive basis of grammaticalisation, and protolanguage and pre-linguistic communication. The analysis reveals that cognitive mechanisms underpinning grammaticalisation are not specifically linguistic, but derive from the principles of ostensive-inferential communication. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that pre-linguistic communication was based on these same principles, which allows us to gain insights into how language evolved from a non-linguistic state by studying grammaticalisation.

Keywords: grammaticalisation; language evolution; cognitive basis; protolanguage; pre-linguistic communication; cognitive mechanisms; ostensive-inferential communication

Article.  3936 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics ; Language Evolution

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