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Failed grammaticalisation of a phrase signifying “(n)ever” Eric Hoekstra & Bouke Slofstra Current Trends in Grammaticalization Research 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Failed grammaticalisation of a phrase signifying “(n)ever” Eric Hoekstra & Bouke Slofstra Current Trends in Grammaticalization Research 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 Failed grammaticalisation of a phrase signifying “(n)ever” Eric Hoekstra & Bouke Slofstra Current Trends in Grammaticalization Research 2009

2 Hoekstra & Slofstra2 The data Investigate the rise and fall of the phrase syn leven his life => ‘ever’ syn leven net his life not => ‘never’ Data from 17-18th century Frisian (Middle Frisian).

3 Hoekstra & Slofstra3 The theoretical question Why didn’t this phrase grammaticalise? Why did it lose out against its rivals oait / noait ‘ever/never’.

4 Hoekstra & Slofstra4 Language Corpus Middle Frisian Around 1 million of words Tagged for all types of agreement Lemmatised Exhaustive Beta-version internally available Freely available through www as of 2010 Presentation at Euralex 2010, Leeuwarden

5 Hoekstra & Slofstra5 Three competitors meaning ‘ever / never’ in 17-18th century Frisian Ea / Nea Oait / Noait Syn leven / Syn leven net his life / his life not ‘ever / never’

6 Hoekstra & Slofstra6 Ea / Nea Derives from Old Frisian a / na. Last attested 1702 (ea), 1718 (nea). Basically absent in 18th century. Found again from 1830 onwards. Brought back to life by the Frisian Language movement Nowadays still written, sometimes heard, called boekjefrysk ‘Frisian from a book’.

7 Hoekstra & Slofstra7 Oait / Noait Homophonous to Dutch ooit / nooit Borrowed from Dutch First attested 1702 (oait), 1672 (noait) Dutch ooit / nooit has ousted older Dutch ie / nie, the cognates of Frisian ea / nea

8 Hoekstra & Slofstra8 Dutch ooit / nooit ousts Frisian ea/nea: (N)EA roughly 17th century (N)OAITroughly 18th century

9 Hoekstra & Slofstra9 Syn leven / Syn leven net It comes in two forms. Dutch form: Syn leven / Syn leven net His life / His life not ‘ever/never’ Frisian form: Syn libben / Syn libben net

10 Hoekstra & Slofstra10 Syn leven (net) is a loan from Dutch Argument 1 is phonological: intervocalic /v/ does not occur in native MF words after a mid or a high vowel

11 Hoekstra & Slofstra11 Syn leven (net) is a loan from Dutch (argument 2) Argument 2 syn leven (net) first attested 1614 syn libben (net) first attested 1675 So the Frisian form is a relexification of the Dutch form, testifying to some language vitality.

12 Hoekstra & Slofstra12 Syn leven (net) is a loan from Dutch (argument 3) Outside the construction syn leven (net), the word leven doesn’t occur. Outside the construction syn libben (net), the word libben occurs times. => The word leven was not borrowed. Only the construction syn leven (net) as a whole was, in the meaning ‘(n)ever’.

13 Hoekstra & Slofstra13 Overview of syntactic environments under investigation Rhetorical questions Comparative relative ‘so... like...’. Exclamative Clauses with a clausal negation In the scope of a negative DP such as nobody In the scope of an excluding head such as if, before, deny. Relative clauses (free relative clauses)

14 Hoekstra & Slofstra14 Rhetorical questions Wa het sijn libben herd fen socke botte who has his life heard of such terrible dingen(1711) things ‘Who ever heard of such terrible things?’ Frequency leven + libben: (4+12) = 16

15 Hoekstra & Slofstra15 Comparative relative ‘so/such... as...’ It is zok maol praat az ik mijn leven it is such crazy talk as I my life heard hab!(1779) heard have ‘It’s such crazy talk as I never heard in my life.’ Frequency leven + libben: (2+1) = 3 NB Weak context for NPI

16 Hoekstra & Slofstra16 Exclamative (idiomatic) Nou hab ik mijn leven! … hoe bijtinke now have I my life … how think dij Minschen 't!(1779) those people (of) it ‘Well upon my life! … How do those people come to think of it!’ Frequency leven + libben: (2+0) = 2 Why is the Dutch form leven used here?

17 Hoekstra & Slofstra17 Exclamative features the Dutch form. Why? In the source (a play), rethorical uses feature Frisianised ‘libben’. => Why is ‘leven’ re-borrowed from Dutch? => Because it a new syntactic context, and it is a different, more abstract semantic use!

18 Hoekstra & Slofstra18 Clause negation ick hie t oors mijn leven I would-have it otherwise my life neat ljæuwd(1701) not believed ‘Otherwise, I’d never have believed it.’ Frequency leven + libben: (19+15) = 34

19 Hoekstra & Slofstra19 Zero in the following contexts In the scope of a negative DP such as nobody EA 5:31 (total 36) OAIT 35:95 (130) In the scope of an excluding head such as if, before, deny. EA 10:26 OAIT 31:99 Free / nominal relative clauses EA 14:22 OAIT 11:119

20 Hoekstra & Slofstra20 In the scope of a negative DP Joa zille nin fortriet Oyt syæn,(1755) they will no sadness ever see => No syn leven / libben is found in this context.

21 Hoekstra & Slofstra21 In the scope of an excluding head such as if, before, deny, alas that. Dat mij ien koegel reitse (1748) that me a bullet may-hit eiar ik ien slaaf ooit hiet before I a slave ever was-called => No syn leven / libben is found in this context.

22 Hoekstra & Slofstra22 Free / nominal relative clauses Joa trogzieke wis (1755) they search surely het hier ooyt trog toa sieken is what here ever through to search is => No syn leven / libben is found in this context.

23 Hoekstra & Slofstra23 Zero-contexts for syn libben/leven Syn leven / libben 55 EA 36 OAIT 130 Scope of Neg. DP 0535 Excluding Head Free/nom- inal relative clauses 01411

24 Hoekstra & Slofstra24 Non zero-contexts for syn libben/leven Syn leven / libben 55 EA 36 OAIT 130 Rethorical Question Comp Rel + Exclam 500 Clause Negation 34027

25 Hoekstra & Slofstra25 Question Why didn’t syn leven / libben win out against ea and oait?

26 Hoekstra & Slofstra26 (1) Syntactic reason Syn leven / libben was restricted to three contexts. It could not be used with negative DPs, excluding heads and free / nominal relative clauses – which are good contexts to score a higher frequency.

27 Hoekstra & Slofstra27 (2) Semantic reason All examples with syn leven / libben have a very emphatic interpretation (high degree); as such they are found in rethorical questions, exclamatives and comparative relatives indicating a high degree.

28 Hoekstra & Slofstra28 ( 3) Sociological reason The expression seems to be associated with low class and spoken language. It is frequent in low comedy, it doesn’t occur in the translation of the psalms of Althuysen.

29 Hoekstra & Slofstra29 (4) Another syntactic reason Syn leven / libben has the structure of: POSSESSOR + leven / libben The possessor is in most examples coreferential with the subject (or topic?).

30 Hoekstra & Slofstra30 (4) Another syntactic reason continued Heste dijn libben zok foelbekjen wol heard? Have-you your life such foulspeech ADV heard? ick hie it mijn leven næt ljæud/ I would-have it my life net believed  The agreeing possessor blocks further grammaticalisation en lexicalisation of the phrase in to a word (majority of cases).

31 Hoekstra & Slofstra31 Grammaticalisation in Sealter Frisian? Frisian language family: –North Frisian (near the Danish border) –(West) Frisian (The Netherlands) –East Frisian (near the Dutch border) Sealter Frisian only survivor of the East Frisian language, spoken by 2000 people in Sealterlân

32 Hoekstra & Slofstra32 Frisian Language Family (map) (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7a/Friesetaalgebied.png)

33 Hoekstra & Slofstra33 Grammaticalisation in Sealter Frisian? (continued) Kramer (1970): silǻǻrge nit > *silarege > *siladege> sien Lääwdoage ‘his life days’ The possessor pronoun is fixed, so the phrase can be reanalysed as a word.

34 Hoekstra & Slofstra34 Grammaticalisation in Sealter Frisian? (continued) The possessor pronoun is frozen, 3sg, regardless of the ‘antecedent’; hence the phrase can be grammaticalised. Native speakers consider silǻǻrge a word. This confirms reason (4), that the changing possessor pronoun blocked grammaticalisation in Frisian. Incidentally: OE aefre is perhaps derived from a word meaning ‘life’.

35 Hoekstra & Slofstra35 To sum up The phrase syn libben/leven net failed to grammaticalise in 17th and 18th century West-Frisian for a complex of syntactic, semantic and sociological reasons. Thank you for your attention!

36 Hoekstra & Slofstra36 Questions Questions on any aspect of Frisian:


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