Network Core Mechanisms of Exponence

Anderson, Stephen R. (1980)


Anderson reviews Givón’s (1971) claim that “today’s morphology is yesterday’s syntax”. First, it is argued that the position of agreement affixes (relative to the verb stem) does not necessarily reflect the basic word order of an earlier stage (clitics, which are the source of agreement morphology often exhibit a special syntax, e.g. in many Romance languages, which deviates from the basic word order). Anderson then discusses a set of examples (including the development of the possessive construction in Chickasaw (Muskogean), the rise of ergatives out of passives (Tongan, Hindi), and the development of the inverse form of transitive animate verbs in Algonquian) where syntactic change was accompanied by a reinterpretation of the morphological markers involved. It is argued that in all these cases learners were at some point confronted with conflicting syntactic and morphological evidence for the analysis of a certain syntactic construction. Interestingly, it seems that the syntactic evidence is more important, even if this leads to major complications in the morphology of the grammar. A case in point is the development of ergative/absolutive alignment from former passives, where an oblique-marked NP is reanalyzed as the grammatical subject of the construction despite the fact that the morphology indicates otherwise.

authorAnderson, Stephen R.
titleOn the development of morphology from syntax
editorFisiak, J.
booktitleHistorical Morphology
publisherMouton de Gruyter


    author = {Anderson, Stephen R.},
    year = {1980},
    title = {On the development of morphology from syntax},
    booktitle = {Historical Morphology},
    editor = {Fisiak, J.},
    address = {Berlin},
    publisher = {Mouton de Gruyter},
    pages = {51-69},
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