Humboldt, for instance, came up with the idea of evolutionary language. He suggested that in all languages grammatical structures evolved out of a language stage in which there were only words for concrete objects and ideas. In order to successfully communicate these ideas, grammatical structures slowly came into existence. Grammar slowly developed through four different stages, each in which the grammatical structure would be more developed. Though neo-grammarians like Brugmann rejected the separation of language into distinct "stages" in favour of uniformitarian assumptions,  they were positively inclined towards some of these earlier linguists' hypotheses.
Meillet's definition was "the attribution of grammatical character to an erstwhile autonomous word". He was thus able to present a notion of the creation of grammatical forms as a legitimate study for linguistics. Later studies in the field have further developed and altered Meillet's ideas and have introduced many other examples of grammaticalization. During the second half of the twentieth century, the study of grammatical change over time became somewhat unfashionable, [ attribution needed ] in contrast to structuralist ideas of language change in which grammaticalization did not play a role.
It did however, mostly in Indo-European studies , remain an instrument for explaining language change. It was not until the s, with the growth of interest in discourse analysis and linguistic universals , that the interest for grammaticalization in linguistic studies began to grow again. A greatly influential work in the domain was Christian Lehmann 's Thoughts on Grammaticalization This was the first work to emphasize the continuity of research from the earliest period to the present, and it provided a survey of the major work in the field. Lehmann also invented a set of 'parameters', a method along which grammaticality could be measured both synchronically and diachronically.
This work focussed on African languages synchronically from the point of view of grammaticalization. They saw grammaticalization as an important tool for describing the workings of languages and their universal aspects and it provided an exhaustive list of the pathways of grammaticalization. The great number of studies on grammaticalization in the last decade show grammaticalization remains a popular item and is regarded as an important field within linguistic studies in general.
Among recent publications there is a wide range of descriptive studies trying to come up with umbrella definitions and exhaustive lists, while others tend to focus more on its nature and significance, questioning the opportunities and boundaries of grammaticalization. An important and popular topic which is still debated is the question of unidirectionality.
It is difficult to capture the term "grammaticalization" in one clear definition see the 'various views on grammaticalization' section below. However, there are some processes that are often linked to grammaticalization. These are semantic bleaching , phonetic erosion , morphological reduction and obligatorification. Semantic bleaching, or desemanticization, has been seen from early on as a characteristic of grammaticalization. It can be described as the loss of semantic content. More specifically, with reference to grammaticalization, bleaching refers to the loss of all or most lexical content of an entity while only its grammatical content is retained,  for example James Matisoff described bleaching as "the partial effacement of a morpheme's semantic features, the stripping away of some of its precise content so it can be used in an abstracter, grammatical-hardware-like way".
Once a linguistic expression has changed from a lexical to a grammatical meaning bleaching , it is likely to lose morphological and syntactic elements that were characteristic of its initial category, but which are not relevant to the grammatical function. For example, the demonstrative 'that' as in "that book" came to be used as a relative clause marker, and lost the grammatical category of number 'that' singular vs.
Phonetic erosion also called phonological attrition or phonological reduction , is another process that is often linked to grammaticalization. It implies that a linguistic expression loses phonetic substance when it has undergone grammaticalization. Heine writes that "once a lexeme is conventionalized as a grammatical marker , it tends to undergo erosion; that is, the phonological substance is likely to be reduced in some way and to become more dependent on surrounding phonetic material".
Bernd Heine and Tania Kuteva have described different kinds of phonetic erosion for applicable cases:. Some linguists trace erosion to the speaker's tendency to follow the principle of least effort , while others think that erosion is a sign of changes taking place. However, phonetic erosion, a common process of language change that can take place with no connection to grammaticalization, is not a necessary property of grammaticalization.
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In both languages, - mente in this usage is interpretable by today's native speakers only as a morpheme signaling 'adverb' and it has undergone no phonological erosion from the Latin source, mente. This example also illustrates that semantic bleaching of a form in its grammaticalized morphemic role does not necessarily imply bleaching of its lexical source, and that the two can separate neatly in spite of maintaining identical phonological form: the noun mente is alive and well today in both Italian and Spanish with its meaning 'mind', yet native speakers do not recognize the noun 'mind' in the suffix -mente.
The phonetic erosion may bring a brand-new look to the phonological system of a language, by changing the inventory of phones and phonemes, making new arrangements in the phonotactic patterns of a syllable, etc. Humboldt , putting Sino-Tibetan languages in a sharp contrast to the other languages in the world in typology. Obligatorification occurs when the use of linguistic structures becomes increasingly more obligatory in the process of grammaticalization.
Some linguists, like Heine and Kuteva, stress the fact that even though obligatorification can be seen as an important process, it is not necessary for grammaticalization to take place, and it also occurs in other types of language change. Although these 'parameters of grammaticalization' are often linked to the theory, linguists such as Bybee et al.
In addition, most are not limited to grammaticalization but can be applied in the wider context of language change. Critics of the theory of grammaticalization have used these difficulties to claim that grammaticalization has no independent status of its own, that all processes involved can be described separately from the theory of grammaticalization. Janda, for example, wrote that "given that even writers on grammaticalization themselves freely acknowledge the involvement of several distinct processes in the larger set of phenomena, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the notion of grammaticalization, too, tends to represent an epiphenomenal telescoping.
That is, it may involve certain typical "path way s", but the latter seem to be built out of separate stepping-stones which can often be seen in isolation and whose individual outlines are always distinctly recognizable". In the process of grammaticalization, an uninflected lexical word or content word is transformed into a grammar word or function word.
The process by which the word leaves its word class and enters another is not sudden, but occurs by a gradual series of individual shifts.
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The overlapping stages of grammaticalization form a chain, generally called a cline. These shifts generally follow similar patterns in different languages. It is believed that the stages on the cline do not always have a fixed position, but vary. However, Hopper and Traugott 's famous pattern for the cline of grammaticalization illustrates the various stages of the form:.
This particular cline is called "the cline of grammaticality"  or the "cycle of categorial downgrading",  and it is a common one. In this cline every item to the right represents a more grammatical and less lexical form than the one to its left. It is very common for full verbs to become auxiliaries and eventually inflexional endings. New York: Routledge. La famille carib trans by F.
Dictionaire des langues , ed. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Carlson, et al. Eugene: Department of Linguistics, University of Oregon. On the evolution of a counter-universal pattern of split ergativity. Lima, Peru. Reconstructing Pre-Proto-Tupi-Guarani main clause grammar.
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Belem: Universidade Federal do Para. Ergativity in the northern Cariban Languages. Are there universal cognitive motivations for ergativity? I have been working in South America with languages of the Cariban family since , when I began fieldwork on Panare in Venezuela.
Carib of Suriname. I am currently collaborating with Raquel Guirardello on the internal reconstruction of main clause grammatical patterns in Trumai Isolate, Brazil and Katharina Haude on the internal reconstruction of main clause grammatical patterns in Movima isolate, Bolivia. I continue to be fascinated by the diachronic typology of main clause alignment patterns, especially ergativity and hierarchical alignment — i. NSF Grant No.
Dissertation Research: A Grammar of Wayana. Video on the Mechanisms of Speech. June September Working Conference on the Grammar of Cariban Languages. Villejuif, France. University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon. August Osaka, Japan.