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Alain Peyraube on Linguistics: A Three-Part Lecture Series

2015-12-30 14:51:15

Dr. Alain Peyraube gave a series of lectures in December as part of the Peking University Global Fellowship. The three lectures were held on December 16, 2015 and one on the afternoon and one on the evening of December 22, 2015. His lectures discussed some of the most hotly debated topics over the past few years on syntactico-semantic change in a functional-cognitive perspective and proposed a new model of grammatical change in Chinese by providing more solidly-based definitions of such notions as ‘grammaticalization’, ‘lexicalization’, ‘degrammaticalization’, ‘exaptation’, and ‘reanalysis’, as well as ‘analogy’ with respect to internal processes of change, but also for external ones, specifically, borrowing through language contact or contact-induced change.

His model is constituted by just two internal mechanisms: reanalysis and analogy. Consequently, he explained that grammaticalization – which has been by far the focus of most of the studies on historical grammar in recent decades – is secondary. The processes of grammaticalization, lexicalization and exaptation will thus be viewed as sub-classes of reanalysis, while some ‘degrammaticalization’/lexicalization processes will be more aptly viewed as a sub-class of analogy.

The main motivations (if not genuine explanations) for grammatical change will also be discussed, i.e. semantic-pragmatic change, including mainly metaphorical extension, pragmatic inferencing or metonymization and (inter-)subjectification, as well as others, such as phonological change. Concerning the third – and external - mechanism of change, it will be shown that the several universals and principles of borrowing that have been proposed remain rather ill-defined.