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Re: Language Change

From:Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>
Date:Tuesday, January 4, 2000, 22:31
Mia Soderquist wrote:
> > Could someone explain some of the ways that grammar of a language > might change over time? I can see that it might gain or lose > tenses, affixes of various sorts, etc, but is word order likely > to change? All comments appreciated!
Definitely, ESPECIALLY if they are in contact with another language. Word order is one of the easiest features to spread to other languages. Given enough time, just about anything can change. A language can gain cases, lose them, gain them again (as I'm considering for Terra Novan), go from accusative to ergative and back to accusative, lose personal inflections, then gain them (as French is doing), etc., etc., etc. From what I gather, categories, like case, are usually lost gradually, a language might have, say, nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, and then over time, one case after another can be lost, but they're usually gained full-fledged, that is, a language might go from having no cases to having four or five quite rapidly. It may gain others later on, but it's unlikely to go from none to two cases, to three, and so on. Another example, a language with no personal inflection would be unlikely to pick up 1st singular, but none others, then later 2nd singular and so on, it would more likely pick up a full set thru cliticizing pronouns. But it might lose them gradually, perhaps thru phonetic attrition, the same process that destroyed English cases by turning them all to /@/. To use an example from my new Terra Novan, pronoun-auxillary contractions evolved into prefixes, with full sets for base (I, I've, etc.), questions (do I, Have I), negations (I don't, I haven't), and negative questions (Don't I, Haven't I), but negative questions have been lost, due to two factors. One is that, thru phonetic changes, many of them became homophonous with other prefixes. To correct for this (which also, to a lesser extent, occurred in negative statements), a particle derived from "at all" became used as a redundant negator (yes, I got that idea from French "pas"), and so negative questions have been replaced by simple question forms with the negative particle. Negative statement prefixes have survived so far, but will probably eventually be lost. -- "Old linguists never die - they just come to voiceless stops." - anonymous ICQ: 18656696 AIM Screen-Name: NikTailor