Heiko Narrog, Bernd Heine

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


IntroductionGrammaticalization in its broadest sense can be taken as any process that leads to the creation of grammar. We understand it more narrowly here in accordance with the classical definition by Kuryłowicz ([1965] 1976: 52), for whom ‘[g]rammaticalisation consists in the increase of the range of a morpheme advancing from a lexical to a grammatical or from a less grammatical to a more grammatical status’. While the term ‘grammaticalization’ as such is relatively young, being generally ascribed to Meillet (1912), the study of the phenomenon can be traced back to the eighteenth century, and is a solid part of the work of nineteenth-century historical linguists such as Bopp, Humboldt and Gabelentz (Lehmann 1982; Heine, Claudi and Hünnemeyer 1991: 6–9). However, when speaking of ‘grammaticalization’ in current linguistics one usually does not refer to these historical predecessors, but to the work emanating from a new wave of research that started in the 1970s with a seminal paper by Givón (1971), and reached a peak in the 1990s and 2000s. While the original approach to grammaticalization was primarily concerned with the development of morphology, the new wave of research has focused on novel theoretical aspects such as pragmatics, semantics and discourse. Syntax is an indispensable part of the study of grammaticalization but initially it was backgrounded in comparison to the above-mentioned fields. This has something to do with the intellectual environment in which modern grammaticalization studies emerged. The study of grammaticalization was part of a movement that revolted against the overwhelming dominance of generative linguistics in theoretical linguistics of the 1960s and early 1970s, which seemingly tried to reduce the study of language to the statement of syntactic (and, perhaps, phonological) rules. Generative syntax was perceived as the extreme off-shoot of structuralism, and scholars were looking for paradigms countering or offering an alternative to structuralism and structuralist analysis. The study of grammaticalization provided such an alternative. The by now classical research of the 1980s and 1990s focused on issues of discourse (e.g. Givón 1975; Hopper 1982, 1987), semantics, especially cognitive semantics (Heine, Claudi and Hünnemeyer 1991; Heine 1997), pragmatics (Traugott 1988) and language processing (Bybee, Perkins and Pagliuca 1994) in grammaticalization.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Historical Syntax
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781107279070
ISBN (Print)9781107049604
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1


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