Grammaticalization in Early English. (Linguistics)

By Welna, Jerzy | Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies, Annual 2000 | Go to article overview

Grammaticalization in Early English. (Linguistics)


Welna, Jerzy, Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies


1. Definition and aim

Grammaticalisation was first defined by Antoine Meillet in 1912 as "the shift of an independent word to the status of a grammatical element", a process sometimes described as desemanticization (for criticism, cf. Traugott -- Heine 1991: 4). In terms of classification into parts of speech the change may involve transfer from "major lexical categories" to "minor, grammatical categories", so that nouns, verbs and adjectives may become adverbs, auxiliaries, and prepositions (cf. McMahon 1994: 160).

According to a recent definition, grammaticalization is:

(1) ... the process whereby the lexical items and constructions come in certain linguistic contexts to serve grammatical functions, and, once grammaticalized, continue to develop new grammatical functions (Hopper - Traugott 1993: xv).

However, the significance of grammaticalization in the study of linguistic change goes far beyond the scope of the above definitions. The process appears to reflect the evolution in human speech from a sequence of purely lexical items, originally denoting concrete objects, through the shift of the lexical component to grammatical, which culminates in the rise of a string of lexical and grammatical words. The subsequent stages may involve cliticization, i.e. attachment of a grammaticalized item to a content word, and its fusion with the modified stem, ultimately resulting in the transformation of the original free word into an affix and, at the most advanced stage, an inflectional marker.

The above sequence of events can be schematically presented as a chain development like the following:

(2) content item > grammatical word > clitic > inflectional affix (Hopper -- Traugott 1993: 7)

The present attempt at identifying different paths along which grammaticalization operates makes use of the evidence from the history of English. Its aim is to verify whether more advanced forms of grammaticalized words belong to later periods and to establish to what extent such advanced forms coexist in a language with the less grammaticalized forms. Since the two items examined are the adjective full (< PGmc *full-az) and the intensifier very (< OF verrai 'true'), yet another aim of the present contribution is to determine the causal connection between the decline of the auxiliary function of full as intensifier and the development of an analogous function of very, originally an adjective. The citations are selected from the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition).

2. The adjective full

CGmc *full-a- (IE *pl-n-o-) belongs to the most frequent stems in Germanic languages. Its original sense 'full, complete, containing abundance of' is evident from the early citations (c. 1000) adduced in the OED, like the one below,

(3) Hatep donne heahcyning helle betynan, fyres fulle (Sal. & Sat. 174 (Gr.))

which contains a typical nominal phrase fyres fulle (gen.) 'full of fire'.

The fates of that adjective best illustrate the evolution of a content word which undergoes grammaticalization. For instance, a "dine of lexicality", where "dine" is "a natural pathway along which forms evolve", can be exemplified as the following string:

(4) a basket full (of eggs ...) > a cupful (of water) > hopeful (Hopper -- Traugott 1993: 7)

It should be noted that items in (4) represent the same, evidently synchronic, plane since all the three forms coexist in contemporary English. But, curiously, Hopper and Traugott ignore the stage of a shift in the sense of full from adjectival to adverbial and the rise of the new intensifier, like in the phrases ful gode 'very good', ful rice 'very powerful', etc., where ful continues to be preposed with respect to the noun modified.

Evidently, when subject to a diachronic overview the semantic evolution of full goes even through more complex stages than the sequence (4) suggests. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Grammaticalization in Early English. (Linguistics)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.