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Don't have an account? Motivations of Language Change. Various factors motivate change in different components of the grammar and lexicon. Contact is a major catalyst, being the epitomous alteration of the triggering experience. A contact or socially motivated change can have different properties from one that is functionally motivated or whose origin is abductive in nature, e.

Motives for language change / edited by Raymond Hickey.

This permits the acquirer only certain options for an analysis, but the one selected must still be motivated. Like all other changes, unless categorically prompted or externally sanctioned, reanalyses need not be realized as language changes, which prompts a discussion of the interacting tensions between continuity and innovation. Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service.

Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter. Why are changes not straightforwardly at just one level? Let us turn for comparison to another field of social history. As speech changes so too, for example, do the things that people drink; and, once upon a time, no one in Britain drank tea.

Then some members came into contact with societies whose systems, we will say, were different, and, despite the one in which we say they were brought up, they acquired a habit of tea-drinking from them. This habit they brought home and introduced to other members of their own society. But these at first were people who, like them, would have to have been brought up to the earlier system.

So, if they too started drinking tea, it would be because, despite that system, they were curious or it was recommended to them; because it was a new fashion; because they found they liked it. Such explanations bear directly on the behaviour of specific individuals, in response to that of other individuals. Then, at a later stage, some members of the community would be familiar with tea-drinking from their childhood.

Therefore, if we still talk in the manner of linguists, we will say that their behaviour is constrained by a new system of drinking habits, in which tea, although in practice some might never touch it, had a place like that which it has had since. But it is not at all clear why we should be obliged to talk in that way.

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Is it not sufficient to say simply that some people started to drink tea, at specific times or in specific circumstances, using specific kinds of vessel, and other people imitated them? What else is there, that we have to explain in terms of changes at an underlying level? But when it comes to change in language, linguists do talk in just such a manner. The issue is an old one, with which Roger Lass, to whom this es- say is dedicated, has long been familiar. But recent work, ostensibly at least Chomskyan, has raised it in what seems to be a new form.

A step, however, is a mere relation between E-languages. But, of course, when such a step is taken, the experience of a later generation of speakers will be different. Two questions naturally arise. It is therefore reasonable, again, to ask what other explanation is needed.

The first question cries out for an answer. But, although such theories are os- tensibly Chomskyan, it seems clear that the relation of E-language to I-language cannot be as Chomsky himself originally conceived it. Therefore, if this is what Chomsky also meant by an E-language, it cannot be merely epiphenomenal. If we grant this, we are left with a theory that in part at least is like the one developed by Eugenio Coseriu in the heyday of European structuralism. I have remarked on this parallel elsewhere f. The system of Latin included, for example, a k phoneme. But there were also norms by which it was realised, variably as, among other things, a front velar or a back velar.

For example, a phoneme that was normally realised by a velar might sometimes have been realised, before front vowels, by an affricate. This might increasingly become a new norm; but, at that stage, such a change was still at the level of realisation only. Only later might the system itself change, as in the history of Romance, to a state in which the affricates realise a new phoneme. His examples were not from syntax; but the structures constituting an I-language will, in a similar sense, define a set of possible forms of sentences. Some arrangements of words, to speak in the most neutral manner, will be open and others closed, all else being equal, to the speaker whose language it is.

But the frequency with which an open route is taken may then vary independently. But, like any such step, it affects the speech to which a child of a new generation is exposed. But the system itself did not determine the range of words formed in a certain way. It would be a matter of norms that, for example, a noun formed from reasonable is realised as reasonableness not reasonability. Nor might the system determine, for example, which verbs take specific patterns of complementation.

That too might be a matter of norms, and that too might change independently. For example, English did not at one time have a productive formation in -ee employee, trainee, and so on ; as soon as it did, the system had to be in a new state. But is the generativist theory quite the same? Roberts did not confirm at this point that it was. How then do these theories account for new constructions?


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One answer is that they might arise directly through a process of reanalysis. They could also be said to follow indirectly, when a parameter is reset for other reasons. This would then have repercussions; and the ap- pearance of a new construction could in principle be one of them. But are these the only mechanisms that we must envisage? But what exactly is the process of convergence? To do so they may have, in the ordinary sense, to learn B. They may, in consequence, use words from B when they are speaking A: the nature of that mechanism is not in dispute.

For convergence to be possi- ble, it seems that they must also borrow new constructions from B.


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But, if we are on the right track, an E-language would be still less of an epiphenomenon. Frequencies can change independently, as we have seen, of I-languages. This could logically include the case in which a construction disappears: its frequency, that is, will be reduced to zero. If new constructions can enter speech directly so too could, for example, an extension in the range of words with which an existing construction is used. A follower of Chomsky might reply in two ways. The most likely answer is that I-languages instantiate, in part, a Universal Grammar.

We know that this exists; therefore we know that I-languages exist, in abstraction from E- languages, in every speaker; therefore we need, in addition, a theory of change in I-languages. Some changes are, moreover, inexplicable unless this theory of a Universal Grammar is assumed. I will return to this claim in the last part of this essay.

LINGUIST List 14.2342

If some- one, for example, drinks tea they can literally be seen to do so; and, when others imitate them, their behaviour can be seen to be similar. The abstraction implied is minimal. But when different speakers use the same construction, what they say may literally be very different. We are therefore forced to talk of abstract structures that they have in common.

This form of answer can again be traced at least to Saussure. But how exactly would a new syntactic construction or new pattern of word order spread through a community? If so, we must ask how they are able to do so. However, despite the theoretical reorientation introduced by Chomsky in the late s, the majority of linguistic discussions were based on data from present-day languages.