Linguistic Change in French

By Rebecca Posner | Go to book overview

8
Syntactic Change

8.1. SYNTAX

Linguists differ about what phenomena should be treated under the heading of syntax. Traditionally, in Romance studies, it is preferred to link morphology and syntax closely together, as morphosyntax, which covers the categorial status, syntactic use, and semantic value of morphological forms. For some, syntax is virtually synonymous with the ordering of elements within a sentence, the syntactic unit: in the Saussurean tradition, this is largely a matter for parole, the surface realization of the underlying system, langue, which is seen as the object of linguistics. So much depends on individual choice and on pragmatic factors that some deny the validity of the sentence as a unit of linguistic organization, preferring instead to study the utterance, a fleeting and spontaneous expression of discourse. From a diachronic point of view, it has also been maintained that syntax is frozen discourse, a product of literacy or planned speech -- parallel to the view of morphology as fossilized syntax.

It is only in the second half of the twentieth century that syntax became in itself a serious topic of linguistic investigation. There is no consensus, however, on precisely what the status is within the language of the syntactic component, nor what would be the most valid way of studying it. Generative syntax sometimes maintains the autonomy, and indeed the primacy, of a syntactic component, which is 'hard-wired' in the human species: hence the importance of investigation of the language acquisition process, which can help us distinguish what is innate in language, from what is culturally assimilated. However different generative schools (and the same ones at different times) have widely divergent views about what sort of underlying knowledge generates the infinite variety of actual speech-acts, and on how much reliance we can place on the evidence of native-speaker intuitions about their language.

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Linguistic Change in French
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • List of Tables xvi
  • List of Figures xviii
  • Conventions and Abbreviations xix
  • Introduction 1
  • Further Reading 8
  • Part I: Language Change 9
  • 1 - Defining the Domain 11
  • Further Reading 55
  • 2 - Sociolinguistic History of French 57
  • Part Ii: Linguistic Change 103
  • 3 - Processes of Linguistic Change 105
  • Further Reading 142
  • 4 - Lexical Change 143
  • 5 - Semantic Change 185
  • Further Reading 214
  • 6 - Phonological Change 216
  • Further Reading 292
  • 7 - Morphological Change 294
  • Further Reading 343
  • 8 - Syntactic Change 344
  • Further Reading 416
  • In Place of a Conclusion 419
  • Bibliography 425
  • Name Index 489
  • Subject Index 499
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