Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition

By Ronald P. Leow; Héctor Campos et al. | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

RONALD P. LEOW, HÉCTOR CAMPOS, AND DONNA LARDIERE

Georgetown University

“LITTLE WORDS”—items such as clitics, pronouns, determiners, conjunctions, discourse particles, auxiliary/light verbs, prepositions, and so on—have been the focus of investigation in many research areas that include phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, discourse function, historical development, variation, and acquisition. The unique purpose of GURT 2007 was to bring these different research areas into one professional conference that would promote discussion, both cross-disciplinary and within a single discipline, during the course of the event. To reflect the broad disciplinary scope of GURT 2007, Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition is divided into six parts that address each of these research areas.


Part I: History

In chapter 2

azorczyk and Pancheva make the novel observation that Old Church Slavonic (OCS) oba, the historical counterpart of the modern Slavic “both,” was not a distributive quantifier (like Modern Slavic and English “both”) but simply a numeral “two,” although it differed from another numeral d va “two” in that it was associated with a definiteness presupposition. They propose an account of the syntactic and semantic reanalysis of oba where it changes from a numeral, merged as a specifier of number phrase inside a [+] definite-marked determiner phrase (DP), to a quantifier merged as a specifier of a functional projection higher than the DP, headed by a null distributive operator. In this chapter they discuss the motivation for this historical change and the larger implications of their findings.

Elsman and Holt discuss in chapter 3 the phenomenon of the grammaticalization of lexical words into function words that has received much attention in various fields of linguistics. They point out that while grammaticalization usually results in the phonological reduction of the words in question, this reduction does not usually result in the loss of semantic recoverability However, given that function words are inherently phonologically short, any reduction resulting from grammaticalization would incur a proportionally greater loss to the surface realization of their meaning. To support this phenomenon, they provide a close analysis of data from Medieval Leonese, which suggests that as function words are grammaticalized and undergo phonological reduction, individual features take on a correspondingly greater role in

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