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Article

Construction-Based Research in China  

Xu Yang and Randy J. Lapolla

Research on construction-based grammar in China began in the late 1990s. Since its initial stages of introduction and preliminary exploration, it has entered a stage of productive and innovative development. In the past two decades, Chinese construction grammarians have achieved a number of valuable research results. In terms of theoretical applications, they have described and explained various types of constructions, such as schematic, partly variable, and fully substantive constructions. They have also applied the constructionist approach to the teaching of Chinese as a second language, proposing some new grammar systems or teaching modes such as the construction-chunk approach (构式-语块教学法), the lexicon-construction interaction model (词汇-构式互动体系), and trinitarian grammar (三一语法). In terms of theoretical innovation, Chinese construction grammarians have put forward theories or hypotheses such as the unification of grammar and rhetoric through constructions, the concept of lexical coercion, and interactive construction grammar (互动构式语法). However, some problems have also emerged in the field of construction grammar approaches. These include a narrow understanding of the concept of construction, a limited range of research topics, and a narrow range of disciplinary perspectives and methods. To ensure the long-term development of construction-based research in China, scholars should be encouraged to make the following changes: First, they should adopt a usage-based approach using natural data, and they should keep up with advances in the study of construction networks. Second, they should broaden the scope of construction-based research and integrate it with language typology and historical linguistics. Finally, they should integrate cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research findings and methods. In this way, construction-based research in China can continue to flourish and make significant contributions to the study of grammar and language.

Article

The History of Variationist Germanic Linguistics  

Frans Gregersen

The history of variationist linguistics (also known as variationist sociolinguistics or language variation and change) shows that over the years it has entered into competition and collaboration with a number of disciplines. It is in competition with Chomskyan theoretical linguistics, diverging from this hegemonic trend in methods, data, and types of analysis: variationist linguistics favors observation and dismisses introspection; it builds on everyday conversations with more speakers than one; and it uses quantitative methods in all analyses. Variationism collaborates with or is compatible with other types of analyses of language use and is sometimes seen as part of a larger sociolinguistic field also encompassing interactional linguistics, discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, conversation analysis, and functional grammar, and systemic functional linguistics may complement or in other ways be used in otherwise mainly variationist enterprises. Indeed since one of the central variationist types of data is the sociolinguistic interview, variationist data may be analyzed by all of these disciplines. The article is organized along the following historical framework: It circumscribes three periods ranging from approximately 1960 to ca. 2010: The founder period establishes the approach at the various European universities by producing a number of exemplary studies, primary among them William Labov’s dissertation and later book, The Social Stratification of English in New York City. In focusing on an urban environment, Labov identified a moot point in the dialectological tradition, which otherwise is not only compatible with variationism but would also, gradually, be profoundly transformed by it. He also studied a community whose sheer size makes sampling and concomitant discussions of representativity necessary. These are central discussions for any urban sociology. The history of variationism in general plays out differently in the various countries or regions of Germanic-speaking Europe, but in the second period it is characteristic that variationist linguistics gets a more or less favored place in a broader canvas of disciplines studying spoken language in use. The disciplines may take their cue from sociology (ethnomethodology, conversation analysis), philosophy (speech-act theory), or social psychology (accommodation theory). Thus, we have labeled this period the period of fragmentation. The third period distinguished here is a period of larger corpora, when studies of variation may be carried out in tandem with, or indeed in collaboration with, other analyses; thus, in a way, modifying the previous period of fragmentation—at least institutionally. The three periods happen at various points in time in the various countries discussed, and it could be argued that the two later periods overlap, but the framework used here nevertheless makes it possible to organize their overall history.

Article

History of the Italian Lexicon  

Paolo D’Achille

The basis of the Italian lexicon is primarily Latin, with substrate features already existing in the languages spoken before the diverse population on the peninsula was Latinized, prior to the gradual conquest by the Romans, and with terms borrowed from Greek. In addition to the lexemes continued directly from Latin, Italian also shows a Germanic superstrate (Gothic, Lombard, Frankish) and an Arabic adstrate; many Germanisms, Arabisms and Hellenisms were borrowed in the Middle Ages. These were almost always in an adapted form, before the vernacular was given any recognition, and today form part of the “core vocabulary.” The Italian lexicon has also been supplemented by new learned Latin borrowings, exogenous lexemes, borrowings from the other languages with which Italian has been in contact, either directly or indirectly, and dialects (linguistic systems which developed independently of Tuscan/Florentine-based Italian). Similarly, there have been endogenous developments, mainly neologisms. As mentioned, the vocabulary of Latin origin can be divided into two categories. The first one includes the “inherited” vocabulary, that is words that Italian (like all other Romance languages and dialects) inherited from Latin directly through continued verbal use. Although their number is relatively limited, they have been attested for the longest period and make up the majority of the “core vocabulary.” The second category includes Latinisms, which entered the language through learned written use, from the earliest stages of the language right up to the early 21st century. As most of these were also adapted in the process, they cannot always be clearly distinguished formally from lexemes inherited through popular use. The influx of such forms is to some extent still ongoing. In some cases, in particular in the modern and contemporary eras, it has occurred via other languages, primarily French and English. Among the exogenous elements, that is borrowings, particularly noteworthy are the Gallicisms, Iberianisms, and Anglicisms, which entered Italian in the modern and contemporary era and were gradually integrated into the Italian lexicon (at least in writing) with adaptation by this stage no longer taking place (it was normal in earlier stages of the language). Calques remain frequent. Another remarkable phenomenon is internal loans or dialecticisms, that is lexemes once restricted to certain dialect areas or regions and that now form part of the common lexicon. Endogenous processes are represented primarily by the creation of neologisms, that is lexemes created within Italian via the normal means of word-formation (principally derivation and compounding). But attention should also be paid to semantic change: many terms already in use have developed new meanings, in some cases additional to the original meanings, and in other cases replacing them.

Article

Language Ideologies  

Susan Gal

Language ideologies are representations about the nature, structure, and use of linguistic forms in a social world. These understandings are never only about language. They are politically positioned, morally and aesthetically loaded evaluations of the situated linguistic practices to which a social group attends. Language ideologies are evident in practices and in embodied dispositions, or may be implicit in textual form and in material infrastructures. Sometimes they are explicit in discourse. Language ideologies are indispensable in social life because they mediate between aspects of language and other sociocultural phenomena such as identities, interactional stances, and hierarchies of cultural value.Speakers must draw on their presumptions about language and speech to interpret talk and thereby engage in everyday interactions, including child socialization, political debate, ritual speech, intellectual exploration, and governance. Language ideologies have considerable sociopolitical and historical consequences as metacommunications that frame the meaning of enregistered signs-in-use. Mediatingsemiotically between linguistic practices and social as well as linguistic structures, ideologies shape the direction of linguistic and social change. Semiotic concepts of indexicality, differentiation, rhematization, fractality, and erasure are essential in analysis. Language ideologies are evident in communities of all kinds. Scholars, too, have ideological presuppositions which orient their research and have political consequences. A study of a social group's language ideologies is indispensable in projects of language documentation, revitalization, poetics, and multilingual sustainability.

Article

Orthography and the Sociolinguistics of Writing  

Mirka Honkanen

Orthography is not a neutral tool for representing language in writing. Spelling is a linguistic variable capable of carrying social meaning, and orthographies are technologies embedded in larger societal structures. Spelling plays a role in the construction of national and other social identities, the delimitation of languages, the authentication and stigmatization of speaker groups, standardization, and the written representation of paralinguistic features. In these and further ways, orthography is a topic of high sociolinguistic relevance. After written language had long received less sociolinguistic attention than speech, there is now a growing body of sociolinguistic research into spelling variation and orthography as a socioculturally situated practice. Sociolinguists investigate the social role of orthographies and spelling choices. When orthographies are developed for previously unwritten languages, decisions have to be made not only regarding phonemic representation but also between creating distance from and closeness to related languages. Orthography becomes a highly debated topic also when spelling reforms are proposed; different ideological, aesthetic, financial, educational, and sociopolitical arguments are typically brought forth. Standardized spellings are seen by language users as granting languages and speakers authority. When non-standardized spellings are used in transcripts of speech, they have been shown to assign sociolinguistic stigma to the speakers represented. Non-standardized spellings are used in different less than fully regulated orthographic spaces, such as digital writing, company and personal names, literary texts, subcultural publications, advertising, and private writing. Sociolinguistic studies on spelling often rely on data from digital communication such as text messaging or social media interactions. Such studies not only describe and classify different kinds of non-standardized spellings but also increasingly establish quantitative tendencies, explore correlations with macro-level sociodemographic factors, and show the potential for respelling to construct identities, personae, and meaning at the micro level of the utterance. Spelling can index identities and stances, act as a contextualization cue, and represent prosodic and dialectal features.

Article

Danish  

Eva Skafte Jensen

Danish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 6 million people. Genealogically, it is related to the other Germanic languages, in particular the other North Germanic languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese), but also, for example, German, Dutch, and English; typologically, Modern Danish is closer to Norwegian and Swedish than to any other language. Historically deriving from Proto-Germanic, Danish morphology once had three grammatical genders (the masculine, the feminine, and the neuter) and case inflection (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive) in all nominal words; it also had inflection for mood, tense, number, and person in the verbal conjugations. In Modern Standard Danish, much of the traditional nominal and verbal inflection has disappeared. Instead, other kinds of morphosyntactic constructions and structures have emerged. Middle Danish and Modern Danish are typologically very different languages. One of the structural innovations linked to the typological change is that a syntactic subject becomes obligatory in Danish sentences. Correlated to this, Danish develops expletive constructions with det ‘it’ and der ‘there’. Another important point differentiating Middle Danish from Modern Danish concerns agreement. Traditional Indo-European agreement (verbal as well as nominal) has receded in favor of more fixed word order, both on the sentence level and internally within phrases. As part of this, Modern Danish has developed a set of definite and indefinite articles. The traditional three genders are reduced to two (common and neuter) and have developed new syntactic-semantic functions alongside the traditional lexically distributed functions. In the verbal systems, Danish makes use of two different kinds of passive voice (a periphrastic and an inflected one), which carry different meanings, and also of two different auxiliaries in perfective constructions, that is, have ‘have’ and være ‘be’, the latter doubling as an auxiliary in periphrastic passive constructions. Perfective constructions are made up by an auxiliary and the supine form of the main verb. Danish is a V2-language with a relatively fixed word order, often depicted in the form of the so-called sentence frame, a topological model designed specifically for Danish. Like most other Germanic languages, Danish has a rich set of modal particles. All these morphosyntactic features, Danish shares with Swedish and Norwegian, but the distribution is not completely identical in the three languages, something that makes the Mainland Scandinavian languages an interesting study object to the typologically interested linguist. Exclusive for Danish is the so-called stød, a suprasegmental prosodic feature, used as a distinctive feature. Modern Danish is strongly standardized with only little of the traditional dialectal variation left. From the end of the 20th century, in the larger cities, new sociolects have emerged, that is, multi-ethnolects. The new multi-ethnolects are based on a substrate of Danish with lexical features from the languages of Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In addition to the lexical innovations, the multi-ethnolects are characteristic in intonation patterns different from Standard Danish, and they have morphosyntactic features different from Standard Danish, for example, in word order and in the use of gender.

Article

Ancient Greek Views on Greek and Other Languages  

Toon Van Hal

The Ancient Greeks came into contact with possibilities and problems related to ‘language’ in several respects. The earliest epics contained implicit etymological explanations, and both the pre-Socratic philosophers and the sophists were intrigued by the link between the form of words and the meaning they carried. The adaptation of the Phoenician alphabet was an additional stimulus to start reflecting on language. ‘Letters’ became the smallest unit of inquiry in Greek language thought. Of the other units, the word was seen as the most significant level. Elaborating on the philosophical foundations laid by Plato, Aristotle, and early Stoic thinkers, Alexandrian scholars started shaping a philologically oriented tradition of grammar, which was largely oriented to the study of the eight parts of speech and directed at young students of Greek literature. Within the frame of grammar, less attention was paid to the level of the sentence, which explains why syntactic issues were not intensively explored. At its inception, Greek lexicography was an ancillary tool for understanding Greek literary texts too, directed at an audience of native speakers of Greek. Hence, lexicographical projects limited to including difficult or special words. Only once Romans began to delve into the study of Greek did the composition of general lexicons become more urgent.

Article

The Expression of Modality in Classical Chinese: Notions, Taxonomy and Distinctive Features  

Carlotta Sparvoli

Classical Chinese is the written language used from the late 6th to the early 2nd century bce. Located between the Eastern Zhou (770–256) and the foundation of the Qin dynasty (221–207), its textual repertoire comprises the philosophical treaties of the Warring States period (475–221 bce) and, based on syntactic criteria, roughly coincides with the Late Archaic Chinese (LAC). In a diachronic perspective, this is the stage between the rise of a set of possibility and desiderative modals and their systematic use to express a progressively more varied set of modal meanings. Even though many of those expressions still instantiate in modern Chinese, as bùdébù, ‘have to’, which echoes the LAC construction of possibility modal in double negation, the usage of other markers fell in disuse to be replaced by specialized modal, especially for epistemic and deontic modality, starting from Early Medieval Chinese (2nd–6th c. ce). The main bulk of LAC modals is built around three possibility modals, characterized by different syntactic, aspectual, and argumental properties, and expressing three types of enabling conditions for the actualization of the state of affairs. The first, and the most productive, is kĕ, ‘be possible, can’; it is related to the presence or absence of external factors that allow or prevent a given event. The modal néng, ‘be able’ is instead referred to inherent properties of the first participant; finally, dé, ‘come to get, manage’ expresses the potential of actualization of the first participant in the given circumstances. Combined with negation, restrictive focus markers, and specific pragmatic environments, each marker conveys a more varied array of modal meanings, also shifting to the necessity domain. In the latter area, the primary normative source is bound to contingent circumstances (including the power emanated by an authority) rather than moral obligations. Additionally, the only item that occurs consistently in LAC literature as a direct equivalent of deontic ‘should’ (yí宜) is more related to appropriateness than obligation. A further set of modal particles and speaker-oriented adverbs contribute to expressing the degree of factuality of the propositional content, conveying evidential and epistemic contents. Finally, the data show the centrality in LAC of the notion of necessity interpreted in terms of unavoidability, only possibility, and a lack of alternatives.

Article

Romance in Contact with Albanian  

Walter Breu

Albanian has been documented in historical texts only since the 16th century. In contrast, it had been in continuous contact with languages of the Latin phylum since the first encounters of Romans and Proto-Albanians in the 2nd century bce. Given the late documentation of Albanian, the different layers of matter borrowings from Latin and its daughter languages are relevant for the reconstruction of Proto-Albanian phonology and its development through the centuries. Latinisms also play a role in the discussion about the original home of the Albanians. From the very beginning, Latin influence seems to have been all-embracing with respect to the lexical domain, including word formation and lexical calquing. This is true not only for Latin itself but also for later Romance, especially for Italian historical varieties, less so for now extinct Balkan-Romance vernaculars like Dalmatian, and doubtful for Romanian, whose similarities with Albanian had been strongly overestimated in the past. Many Latin-based words in Albanian have the character of indirect Latinisms, as they go back to originally Latin borrowings via Ancient (and Medieval) Greek, and there is also the problem of learned borrowings from Medieval Latin. As for other Romance languages, only French has to be considered as the source of fairly recent borrowings, often hardly distinguishable from Italian ones, due to analogical integration processes. In spite of 19th-century claims in this respect, Latin (and Romance) grammatical influence on Albanian is (next to) zero. In Italo-Albanian varieties that have developed all over southern Italy since the late Middle Ages, based on a succession of immigration waves, Italian influence has been especially strong, not only with respect to the lexical domain but by interfering in some parts of grammar, too.

Article

The Contact History of English  

Marcelle Cole and Stephen Laker

Contact between Early English and British Celtic, Latin, Norse, and French came about through a myriad of historical, political, and sociocultural developments: invasion, foreign governance, and the spread of Christianity, but also via peaceful coexistence, intermarriage, cultural exchange, and trade. The so-called Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain brought speakers of an emerging insular West Germanic variety, which became known as Englisc, into contact with British Celtic and, to some extent, Latin speakers. The Northumbrian historian Bede painted a vivid picture of 8th-century multilingual Britain as an island comprising “five nations, the English, Britons, Scots, Picts and Latins, each in its own peculiar dialect, cultivating the sublime study of divine truth.” The Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons led to renewed contact with Latin, the lingua franca of Christendom. The Church became an important conduit for Latin-derived lexis related to learning and ecclesiastical ritual and organization, although it was the cultural appeal of Latin in the early modern period that explains the massive lexical contribution of Latin to English. Later periods of foreign rule and migration following Viking settlement, mainly in the 9th and 10th centuries, and the Norman Conquest of 1066 brought English into contact with Norse and Old French, respectively. Lexical borrowing from these languages involved loans reflecting foreign rule but also basic everyday words. Extensive bilingualism and second-language learning most likely promoted the rapid loss of inflection that English underwent during the medieval period. Opinions usually vary, however, on whether contact brought about direct structural transfer or merely reinforced internal developments already in progress. Contact left its mark most noticeably on the lexicon of English; the influx of Latin and French loan vocabulary extensively reshaped the lexicon and, with it, the derivational morphology of English and explains the heavy Romance element in present-day English.