Network Core Mechanisms of Exponence

Lehmann, Christian (1995)


The most important part of this book is his theory on grammaticalisation. Lehmann describes the life cycle of grammatical elements as a history of progressive “routinization” that is measured synchronically in terms of structural parameters. His three parameters are associated with de Saussure’s two axes: the paradigmatic and the syntagmatic axes. The parameters are weight, cohesion and variability of the sign. A sign becomes grammaticalised if it loses weight and variability and/or gains cohesion in both the syntagmatic and paradigmatic spheres. For example, the loss of paradigmatic weight or integrity is attrition, the gradual loss of semantic and phonological substance; in contrast the loss of syntagmatic weight is condensation, whereby a sign begins to combine with less and less complex constituents (C. Lehmann 1995: 307). The loss of syntagmatic variability is fixation within a construction, such that “the grammaticalized sign tends to occupy a fixed syntactic, then a morphological position and becomes a slot filler” (C. Lehmann 1995: 308).

authorLehmann, Christian
titleThoughts on Grammaticalization
addressMünchen, Newcastle
publisherLincom Europe


    author = {Lehmann, Christian},
    year = {1995},
    title = {Thoughts on Grammaticalization},
    address = {München, Newcastle},
    publisher = {Lincom Europe},
last changed: