Diachronic Linguistics

Joan L. Bybee

in The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199738632
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Diachronic Linguistics

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  • Linguistics
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics


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Traditionally, the study of language change has been divided into the areas of sound change, analogy, morphosyntactic change, and semantic change. Diachrony provides evidence for the interrelation of lexicon and grammar as well as evidence for the nature of the cognitive representation of phonological and grammatical form. In particular, it points to highly specific (though categorized) representations that are constantly changing to reflect details of language use, such as gradual phonological reduction, new inferential meanings, or new contexts of use. This article looks at recent advances in the understanding of linguistic change as these derive from or relate to the new perspectives afforded by cognitive linguistics. It discusses gestures and the nature of sound change, assimilation, the role of temporal factors in the insertion and deletion of segments, reduction in the magnitude of the gestures in casual speech or in sound change, some cases of apparent strengthenings, lexical diffusion of sound change, analogical leveling and analogical extension, and the importance of grammaticalization for general linguistics.

Keywords: diachrony; language change; sound change; analogy; morphosyntactic change; semantic change; grammar; lexicon; cognitive linguistics; grammaticalization

Article.  19347 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Historical and Diachronic Linguistics

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