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Degrees and dimensions of grammaticalization in Chitimacha preverbs

  • Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana

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It is well known that grammaticalization (whereby lexical items develop into grammatical ones; Meillet 1912; Hopper & Traugott 2003:2) is a composite phenomenon, consisting of a number of micro-level changes that give rise to broader patterns (Lehmann 2002:108–153; Norde 2009:120). While a form might exhibit a high degree of grammaticalization in terms of desemanticization, for example, it may also have undergone little to no grammaticalization in terms of syntactic reanalysis or phonetic reduction. To study the degrees and dimensions of grammaticalization, then, I adopt a multidimensional approach, which assumes that there is more than one way for a construction to exhibit grammaticalization, and that these dimensions of grammaticalization can therefore be analyzed independently of each other (though they may strongly covary). Using a corpus of 87 texts in Chitimacha (ctm) recorded by Morris Swadesh with the last two speakers in the 1930s (Swadesh 1939), I show how these differences in the degree and dimensions of grammaticalization result in vastly different synchronic behaviors for the system of preverbs in the language. Though preverbs in Chitimacha clearly constitute a unified class with certain core functions, their individual behaviors are diverse and multi-functional, even for forms which share the same grammaticalization pathways. While this type of synchronic polyfunctionality and distributional differences are often explained as the result of functional divergence and semantic persistence in grammaticalization (Hopper & Traugott 2003:94–98, 118–121), such a description would be insufficient to account for the state of affairs for Chitimacha. Only when the degree and dimension of grammaticalization are accounted for does the synchronic behavior of Chitimacha preverbs become explainable.
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The comparative method of historical linguistics is carefully applied to the hypothesis that Chitimacha, a language of southern Louisiana now without fully fluent speakers, and languages of the Totozoquean family of Mesoamerica are genealogically related. 91 lexi-cal sets comparing Chitimacha words collected by Swadesh (1939, 1946a, 1950) with words reconstructed for Proto-Totozoquean (Brown et al. 2011) show regular sound cor-respondences. Along with certain structural similarities, this evidence attests to the de-scent of these languages from a common ancestor, Proto-Chitimacha-Totozoquean. By identifying regular sound correspondences, the phonological inventory and some of the vocabulary of the proto-language are reconstructed. Reconstructed words relating to maize agriculture and the fabrication of paper indicate that prehistoric Chitimacha speak-ers migrated to the Lower Mississippi Valley from Mesoamerica. Some speculations on how and when Chitimacha speakers migrated are offered.
Grammaticalization is a well-attested process of linguistic change in which a lexical item becomes a function word, which may be further reduced to a clitic or affix. Proponents of the universality of grammaticalization have usually argued that it is unidirectional and have thus found it a useful tool in linguistic reconstruction. In this book Prof Norde shows that change is reversible on all levels: semantic, morphological, syntactic, and phonological. As a consequence, the alleged unidirectionality of grammaticalization is not a reliable reconstructional tool, even if degrammaticalization is a rare phenomenon. Degrammaticalization, she argues, is essentially different from grammaticalization: it usually comprises a single change, examples being shifts from affix to clitic, or from function word to lexical item. And where grammaticalization can be seen as a process, degrammaticalization is often the by-product of other changes. Nevertheless, she shows that it can be described, like grammaticalization, in a principled way, in order to establish whether a change in a word has been from more to less grammatical or vice versa, and the stages by which it has become so. Using data from different languages she constructs a typology of degrammaticalization changes. She explains why degrammaticalization is so rare and why some linguists have such strongly negative feelings about the possibility of its existence. She adds to the understanding of grammaticalization and makes a significant contribution to methods of linguistic reconstruction and the study of language change. She writes clearly, aiming to be understood by advanced undergraduate students as well as appealing to scholars and graduate researchers in historical linguistics. Readership: Historical linguists at advanced undergraduate level and above.
The aim of this paper is to investigate the historical process whereby preverbs came into being in Hungarian: to shed light on the reason why certain adverbial elements, used autonomously at first, were subsequently degraded into items of a bound grammatical category. It will be seen that that path is anything but straight: various factors may be involved in adverbial modifiers turning into preverbs, diverse “access roads” may lead to the same main road (this is also part of the reason why a number of items in the present-day stock of Hungarian preverbs are related to several parts of speech, e.g., to adverbs and to postpositions, at the same time). The second part of the paper tries to answer the questions why the stock of preverbs is presented in a heterogeneous manner in certain grammars of Hungarian, what role subjective criteria play in classifications, and how reliable the criterion of productivity is as a general guiding principle.
Chitimacha is an extinct language isolate spoken in Southern Louisiana until the death of its last speaker in 1940. In the 1930s, Morris Swadesh did fieldwork on the language, the results of which remain mostly unpublished. Using what little Swadesh did publish on the language, supplemented by a large subset of his field dictionary data, I have reevaluated several significant and mutually interrelated aspects of Chitimacha phonology in light of modern theoretical perspectives. These include principally: prosodically-conditioned allomorphy in certain word classes, the syllabic weight system and its influence on syllabification, and the question of the existence and nature of phonological stress. In particular, while Swadesh seems to have conflated the notions of stress and weight (as understood in modern theory), I have shown that by examining the facts as he presents them, it is possible to advance a view wherein both are relevant to the phonology of the language in ways unanticipated by his account. In keeping with the practice of linguistics in his time, Swadesh's published articles on Chitimacha are of a descriptive rather than analytic nature. In this work, I seek to provide an explanatory account of several phenomena, with emphasis on their influences on one another. As a consequence, I believe I have uncovered a conspiracy among them related to ideal syllable form. My analysis is presented within the framework of Optimality Theory. Master of Arts;
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