Parameters of Change

It has long been recognized that many instances of change that have been discussed within the framework of grammaticalization studies notoriously defy categorization. In order to avoid these classification issues, we put forward an analytic model in which we reduce grammaticalization and related changes to three levels of observation:

• Main mechanisms: formal reanalysis and semantic reinterpretation

Primitive changes: micro-changes on the levels of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse

• Side effects: e.g. obligatorification or layering

We argue that reducing complex changes, such as the changes traditionally labelled “grammaticalization”, to clusters of micro-changes at these levels may well offer a more diffuse account – not one indeed that is as well-ordered as previous approaches may appear – but one that is descriptively more adequate, allowing for a more fine-grained account of composite changes than definition-based taxonomies. We term this novel approach to composite changes by identifying clusters for each individual token of change the ‘clustering approach‘.

For further reading: Facing interfaces: A clustering approach to grammaticalization and related changes by Norde & Beijering 2014.