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I got that idea from French "pas"), and so negative questions have been
replaced by simple question forms with the negative particle.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
"Old linguists never die - they just come to voiceless stops." -
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