Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ    Attic   

A language change question (longish)

From:Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
Date:Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 5:55
Hi, all. I've been wondering for a while about a kind of language
change I've read about and noticed, where a form (or class of forms)
which is inflected for a certain category gets reanalyzed in such a
way that it no longer falls into that category.

- People who interpret _drowned_ as a present tense instead of past
(and hence form a new past tense, _drownded_)
- Recently I saw the word _concocked_ online, used as a past tense
verb, no doubt due to misinterpreting the present tense _concoct_
- Reanalysis of neuter plural -a in Latin as feminine singular
- In that Sapir paper mentioned lately, he mentions nouns which are
already marked as possessed, but then subsequently get another
possessor marking affixed

How do these things happen? I can understand someone interpreting
e.g. _concoct_ as _concocked_ if it were used in complete isolation
-- but how can that kind of reanalysis take place when the word
_concoct_ fits into a "slot" which is clearly present tense,
according to the context?

And is there a name for this phenomenon?

Also probably related: in some languages you find words that show two
or more inflectional morphemes serving the same function, e.g.
_children_ in English, where both -(e)r and -en were once plural
markers. This might come from the same process.

(Also, I recall reading a few months ago that the ending -ate in
Latinate English verbs originally had a perfect participle meaning,
as its Latin etymon does, but that it eventually became possible to
use -ate words as verbs, and then the verbal reading became the most
common. The explanation I read said that the change of -ate words
into verbs was due to a reanalysis of locutions like "they do
congregate", in which _congregate_ was originally a verbal noun and
_do_ was the main verb; later _do_ became more modal and _congregate_
was interpreted as the main verb. Apparently such phrases with non-
emphatic _do_ were more common in the past, as they are in some
dialects to this day. I'm not sure how this would relate to the other
examples I gave, but it's food for thought.)


ROGER MILLS <rfmilly@...>
deinx nxtxr <deinx.nxtxr@...>
Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>