Generative syntax and language change

Authored by: Elly van Gelderen

The Routledge Handbook of Historical Linguistics

Print publication date:  June  2014
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415527897
eBook ISBN: 9781315794013
Adobe ISBN: 9781317743248


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In this chapter, a description is given of some of the work in diachronic generative syntax. Because the field is over 50 years old, an overview of some of the changes it has undergone is necessary. Formal linguistics is often opposed to functional linguistics, with the main difference being that language is seen in terms of communication in the latter but not the former. I will focus on generative syntax as one instantiation of ‘formal’ syntax and will not discuss the differences very much (see Newmeyer 1998 for an excellent account). Although there are other models (e.g. Lexical Functional Grammar 1 and Head Driven Phrase Structure Grammar), I will only discuss the generative approach.

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