The goal of the project is to establish new theories of language internal conditions for grammatical change over time. This will be done on the basis of empirical data from a variety of languages, and recent linguistic theory. The project will concentrate on identifying principles and mechanisms which underlie grammatical change. In all languages we can observe change over time. Such changes may have identifiable external causes, but those usually explain only why a process of change started at some point. In order to explain why the outcome of the change is as it is we need theories of grammar and internal linguistic structure. This project will deal with the relationship between internal linguistic structure and grammatical change. The relationship between language acquisition and change has become a hot topic in modern linguistics, and precise hypotheses have been formulated about how the grammar of a language may change in the process of first language acquisition. In a project like this, material from various languages and language families are of crucial importance. The participants include experts on older Germanic languages, Slavic languages, Latin and Romance, Finno-Ugric languages, Caucasian languages, and native American Languages. Some of the participants work within various versions of formal generative grammar, others have their theoretical basis on more functional and typological theories.
In all languages, we can observe change over time. Such changes may have identifiable external causes, but those usually explain only why a process of change started at some point. In order to explain why the outcome of the change is as it is we need theories of grammar and internal linguistic structure.
The goal of the project on Linguistic Theory and Grammatical Change was to discuss and test out hypotheses about language internal conditions and causes of grammatical change over time, and thus formulate new theories of language change. This was done on the basis of empirical data from a variety of languages, and recent linguistic theory. The project concentrated on identifying principles and mechanisms, which underlie syntactic change.
Each of the fellows contributed towards this effort by presenting their work, ideas, analyses and hypotheses to the other group members for discussion. Discussions might be concerned with the data and its interpretation, but more often about the analyses of it and the underlying theoretical assumptions. These discussions were often driven by the different language material presented, and by the different linguistic schools of thought represented within the group.
One central topic which came up repeatedly in our discussions, was the notion of grammaticalization, which means that there is a general tendency in language change for various elements to become more ‘grammatical’; content words become grammatical words (going to > gonna ‘future tense’), full words become clitics (I will > I’ll), clitics become affixes (Old Norse hestr+inn > hesten), etc. The reverse development is very rare, and the question is whether this common and almost unidirectional drift in languages is due to a property of language itself, or whether it follows from other principles of language acquisition and use. This question is closely related to notion of reanalysis in connection with first language acquisition.
The group members arrived at CAS with quite diverging approaches to these questions, and this triggered theoretically important discussions in the group. Speaking for myself as a group leader, I have a feeling that through these discussions in our group we reached, if not a consensus, at least a deeper understanding of the theoretical and empirical problems involved and of the approaches that can be made within the various theoretical frameworks.
The group met regularly for presentations and discussion of work in progress once or twice a week, depending on the number of fellows present at any given time, and on the stage of the work of each member. Because of the very favourable design of the physical space at CAS, the discussions within the group could also take place informally on a daily basis.
Part of our work will be published in a volume from the Rosendal symposium, edited by Thórhallur Eythórsson. But most of it will be published separately in journals.
The working conditions at CAS are excellent, and yield the best possible conditions for performing the kind of activities which the Centre is meant for. We all benefited tremendously from this year, and I can safely say that the objective of enhancing the level of basic research in Norway (and elsewhere) was certainly achieved, in that we all came out of this stay with new inspiration, new insights and fruitful ideas.
Andersen, HenningProfessor Em. University of California, Los Angeles 2004/2005
Askedal, John Ole
Eythórsson, ThórhallurDr. University of Iceland 2004/2005
Harris, Alice CarmichaelProfessor Stony Brook 2004/2005
Haug, Dag Trygve Truslew
Ottosson, Kjartan Gyduson
Schøsler, LeneProfessor University of Copenhagen 2004/2005
van Gelderen, EllyProfessor Arizona State University 2004/2005
Jan Terje FaarlundTitle Professor Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 2004/2005