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Linguistic Universals and Language Change$
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Jeff Good

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199298495

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199298495.001.0001

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Creating Economical Morphosyntactic Patterns in Language Change *

Creating Economical Morphosyntactic Patterns in Language Change *

(p.185) 8 Creating Economical Morphosyntactic Patterns in Language Change*
Linguistic Universals and Language Change

Martin Haspelmath

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents five main points. First is that a very large number of morphosyntactic implicational universals can be explained by invoking economic motivation: more frequently used expressions are shorter than semantically similar, but more rarely used expressions, because they are more predictable. Second, all universal morphosyntactic asymmetries are economically motivated. Third, economical patterns are created by speakers in language use, and when innovative patterns spread through the community, they are manifested in the results of language change. Fourth, there are at least three different diachronic paths through which economical patterns arise: differential phonological reduction, differential expansion of a new construction, and selective analogical change. Fifth, one obvious possible diachronic path does not seem to be well attested: differential morphosyntactic reduction. However, this generalization is problematic, because morphosyntactic reduction is not easy to differentiate from phonological reduction, and counter-examples have been noted.

Keywords:   universal asymmetrical morphosyntactic patterns, expected associations, expected patterns, diachrony, language

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