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Grammatical ChangeOrigins, Nature, Outcomes$
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Dianne Jonas, John Whitman, and Andrew Garrett

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199582624

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582624.001.0001

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Language contact and linguistic complexity—the rise of the reflexive pronoun zich in a fifteenth-century Netherlands border dialect

Language contact and linguistic complexity—the rise of the reflexive pronoun zich in a fifteenth-century Netherlands border dialect

Chapter:
(p.139) 7 Language contact and linguistic complexity—the rise of the reflexive pronoun zich in a fifteenth-century Netherlands border dialect
Source:
Grammatical Change
Author(s):

Gertjan Postma

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582624.003.0007

This chapter examines a prototypical case of grammatical borrowing from a neighbouring language: the introduction of the reflexive pronoun in the Lower Countries from the late Middle Ages onwards. While Middle Dutch did not make a distinction between local and non-local binding using pronominal (e.g., English ‘him’) and reflexive pronouns (e.g., English ‘himself’), Dutch dialects began using sich ‘himself’ as a reflexive, borrowed from neighbouring German dialects. From a language where binding features did not seem to play a role, Dutch developed into a language where binding features are fully active. The chapter demonstrates that the change has not been triggered by an imposition of the binding features (anaphoric/pronominal) from outside, through prestige of the Eastern grammatical system, but that it was internally triggered. It was triggered by the decline of a marked parameter setting that neutralized the Binding Theory. The chapter shows that rules of Universal Grammar are active in a change that was fuelled by simplification through internal areal convergence in this globalizing and state-building period of the Low Countries. Internal factors created a gap in the system, which attracted the Eastern reflexive forms.

Keywords:   grammatical borrowing, reflexive pronouns, Middle Dutch, pronominals, binding

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