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Economy as a Third Factor in Language Change. Elly van Gelderen Arizona State University Goals - outline. Language change as an area to see `third factors’ at work. Two Economy Principles Linguistic Cycles Feature Economy

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economy as a third factor in language change

Economy as a Third Factorin Language Change

Elly van Gelderen

Arizona State University

goals outline
Goals - outline
  • Language change as an area to see `third factors’ at work.
  • Two Economy Principles
  • Linguistic Cycles
  • Feature Economy
  • Conclusions/speculations
third factor flb e g chomsky 2007
Third factor (FLB), e.g. Chomsky 2007

(1) genetic endowment, which sets limits on the attainable languages, thereby making language acquisition possible;

(2) external data, converted to the experience that selects one or another language within a narrow range;

(3) principles not specific to [the Faculty of Language]. Some of the third factor principles have the flavor of the constraints that enter into all facets of growth and evolution, [...] Among these are principles of efficient computation"

if there are principles they should be visible in lg change
If there are Principles, they should be visible in Lg Change

Two main patterns (van Gelderen 2004 etc):

a) Phrase to Head

b) Up the tree: both phrases and heads

Principles: acquisition and derivation

a spec head
(a) Spec > Head

Full pronoun to agreement

Demonstrative that to complementizer

Demonstrative pronoun to article

Negative adverb phrase to negation marker

Adverb phrase to aspect marker

Adverb phrase to complementizer

and b higher in the tree
and (b) higher in the tree

On, from P to ASP

VP Adverbials > TP/CP Adverbials

Like, from P > C (like I said)

Negative objects to negative markers

Modals: v > ASP > T

Negative verbs to auxiliaries

To: P > ASP > M > C

PP > C (for something to happen)

spec to head and merge over move
Spec to Head and Merge over Move



Spec X'

na wihtX YP

not> n’t …

Late Merge

third factor economy accounts
Third factor Economy accounts

Head Preference Principle (HPP):

Be a head, rather than a phrase, i.e.

`analyze something as small as possible'

Late Merge Principle (LMP):

Merge as late as possible

two problems w hpp and lmp
Two problems w/ HPP and LMP

Minor: Move is `just’ internal merge

Major: Language Change proceeds in a cycle. HPP and LMP are 2 stages but 2 more:

(a) how is the head lost,

(b) how is the specifier replaced

head 0 is solvable e g iconicity
Head > 0 is solvable: e.g. iconicity

Null hypothesis of language acquisition

A string is a word with lexical content.

Faarlund (2008) explains that "the child misses some of the boundary cues, and interprets the input string as having a weaker boundary (fewer slashes, stronger coherence) at a certain point"

My alternative: Feature Economy

some micro cycles
Some Micro-Cycles

Negative (neg):

neg indefinite/adverb > neg particle > (neg particle)


demonstrative > article > class marker


emphatic > pronoun > agreement


V/A/P > M > T > C


pronoun > complementizer

PP/Adv > Topic > C

negative cycle in old english 450 1150 ce
Negative Cycle in Old English450-1150 CE

a. no/ne early Old English

b. ne (na wiht/not) after 900, esp S

c. (ne) not after 1350

d. not > -not/-n’t after 1400

the linguistic cycle e g the negative cycle
The Linguistic Cycle, e.g. the Negative Cycle



Spec Neg'

na wihtNeg YP

not> n’t …

Late Merge

negative cycle
Negative Cycle

Arg/Adjunct Specifier Head affix

semantic > [iF] > [uF]

Once, there are only uF on e.g. ne, a new element is needed. Hence, the cycle.

dp cycle old way
DP Cycle (old way)

a. DP b. DP

dem D'  D' (=HPP)


art N


c. DP



-n>0 N


through LMP

or through feature economy
or through Feature Economy:

a. DP > b. DP

that D' D'

[i-ps] D NP D NP

[i-loc][u-#] N … the N

[i-phi] [u-phi] [i-phi]

Hence (1) *I saw the

(2) I saw that/those.


(1) demonstrative/adverb > definite article > Case/non-generic > class marker > 0

Old Norse

(2) ok hinn siðasta vetr er hann var í Nóregi

and the last winter that he was in Norway

(Bjarni's Voyage 41.8)



`the kings'.

(4) ok var þann vetr ...

and was that winter

`and he was during that winter ....'

(Fóstbræðra Saga 78.11)

doubles in old norse
Doubles in Old Norse

(1) þau in storu skip those the big ships

`Those big ships‘.

(2) þitt hitt milda andlit

your the mild face

`your mild face'

(3) fé þat allt

money that all

`all that money'

more change swedish etc
More change (Swedish etc)


(2) han den gamle vaktmästeren he the old janitor-DEF

(2) den där bok-en

the here bok-DEF

`that book'.

(3) denna bok(en)

that book-DEF



Poss D'


Dem þau n’

`that’ n skip

in [3NeuP]


DEM is spec or head in can move

the history of english
The History of English

Interpretable features:

(1) se wæs Wine haten & se wæs in Gallia rice gehalgod.

he was wine called and was in Gaul consecrated

(2) hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon

how those-NOM.P nobles-NOM.P courage did

'how the nobles performed heroic acts' (Beowulf 3)

loss of if
loss of iF

(1) gife to … þa munecas of þe mynstre

give to … the monks of the abbey (Peterborough Chron 1150)

(2) *the (Wood 2003: 69)

(3) Morret's brother came out of Scoteland for th'acceptacion of the peax

(The Diary of Edward VI, 1550s)


(1) It was just I I was just looking at there them down there (BNC FME 662).

(2) Oh they used to be ever so funny houses you know and in them days … They used to have big windows, but they used to a all be them there little tiny ones like that. (BNC - FYD 72)

dutch afrikaans

(1) die man daar

that man there

(2) Daardie teenstrydighede was egter nie

those contradictions were however not

st t imcets all stages
St'át'imcets: all stages

(1) ca ti=sxwápməx-a

this ART-Shuswap-REF

`This Shushap' (van Eijk 1997: 169)

(2) DP ca D'

D nP

ti n'

n NP

-a sxwápməx

(3) l-ča

visible, proximal `here'.

feature economy select minimum from the lexicon
Feature Economy: select minimum from the lexicon

Locative Specifier Head affix

semantic > [iF] > [uF] > --

Head > (higher) Head > 0

[iF] / [uF] [uF]

uF is a Probe

agreement and cycles
Agreement and … cycles

emphatic > full pronoun > head pronoun > agreement

semantic > [i-phi] > [u-1/2] [i-3] >[u-phi]

head to head
Head to head


go: motion > future

have: possession>perfect


to: direction>mood

on: location>aspect


for: location>time>cause

after: location>time


Cyclical changes are due to Economy

  • Negative, Demonstrative, Agreement, and Perfective Cycles, Clause marking Reason:
  • HPP and LMP, or
  • Semantic features are reanalyzed as grammatical (and interpretable as uninterpretable)
after from p c
After from P > C

(1)Fand þa ðær inn æþelinga gedriht swefan æfter symble

found then there in; noble company sleeping after feast (Beowulf 118-9)

(2)& þær wearþ Heahmund biscep ofslægen, & fela godra monna; & [æfter þissum gefeohte] cuom micel sumorlida.

`after this fight, there came a large summer-force' (Chronicle A, anno 871)

(3) [Æfter þysan] com Thomas to Cantwarebyri

`After this, Thomas came to Canterbury'.

(Chronicle A, anno 1070)

percentages of demonstrative objects dem with after and fronting
Percentages of demonstrative objects (Dem) with after and fronting

Beowulf Chronicle Chronicle A

<892 >892

Dem 2/65=3% 2/26= 8% 17/22= 77%

Fronting 2/65=3% 7/26= 27% 12/22= 55%

(1) After that the king hadde brent the volum

(Wyclyf 1382, taken over in Coverdale 1535 and KJV 1611, from the OED).

(2) Aftir he hadde take þe hooli Goost (c1360 Wyclif De Dot. Eccl. 22).

(3) After thei han slayn them (1366 Mandeville174).

Four stages:

PP PP 900 (Chronicle A) – present

PP (that) 950 (Lindisfarne) - 1600 (OED 1587)

P that 1220 (Lambeth) - 1600 (OED 1611)

C 1360 (Wycliff) - present

from p c
From P > C



after after

[u-phi] [3S] (u-phi)

[ACC] [uACC]

In English, no phi, but Germanic C-agreement.

back to the smt
Back to the SMT

Language is a perfect solution to interface conditions.

Are both interfaces equally important??

Chomsky favors SEM/C-I: “the conflict between computational efficiency and ease of communication” is resolved “to satisfy the CI interface” (2006: 9).

I want to suggest:

the challenge the dual nature of n and v need for interpretable f
The challenge: the dual nature of N and V: need for +/- interpretable f

DP: Theta > discourse

(position > morphology)

V: Theta and TMA

Macro Cycle goes from (a) to (b) to (a) …

a) Movement links two positions and is thereby economical (=synthetic) = uninterpretable/EPP

b) Avoid syncretism; Iconicity is economical (=analytic) = semantic and interpretable features

two forces
Two `forces’
  • Jespersen: "the correct inference can only be that the tendency towards ease may be at work in some cases, though not in all, because there are other forces which may at times neutralize it or prove stronger than it".
  • Von der Gabelentz (1891/1901: 251/256): "Deutlichkeit" ('clarity') and "Bequemlichkeit" ('comfort').
and uf is normal
And uF is `normal’

Chomsky (2002: 113) sees the semantic component as expressing thematic as well as discourse information. If thematic structure was already present in proto-language (Bickerton 1990), the evolutionary change of Merge made them linguistic. What was added through grammaticalization is the morphology, the second layer of semantic information.