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Historical Syntax & Lexical Change. How Sentence Structure and Vocabulary Change over Time Asian 401. Historical Syntax. Syntax seems to change more slowly than phonology and morphology over time But if we look over many hundreds of years, we can see major differences. Basic Word Order.

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historical syntax lexical change

Historical Syntax & Lexical Change

How Sentence Structure and Vocabulary Change over Time

Asian 401

historical syntax
Historical Syntax
  • Syntax seems to change more slowly than phonology and morphology over time
  • But if we look over many hundreds of years, we can see major differences
basic word order
Basic Word Order
  • Even basic word order can change over time
  • S = Subject, V = Verb, O = Object
  • SVO: English, Chinese
  • SOV: Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Urdu
  • VSO: Welsh, Tagalog
  • OVS: Klingon (not a real language)
example of vso
Example of VSO
  • Welsh: “The man killed the dragon.”
  • Lladdodd y ddraig y dyn [ɬaðɔð i ðraig i dən] killed the dragon the man
  • Note: ll is a voiceless lateral fricative; fl is an Anglicized spelling (Lloyd = Floyd, from Welsh word ‘grey’)
example of vso1
Example of VSO
  • Tagalog: “The child ate a mango.”
  • Kumain ang bata ng mangga Ate child mango
  • (ang and ng [naŋ] are case markers)
changes in word order
Changes in Word Order
  • English has changed from SOV to SVO
  • Old Eng. “When he visited the king …”
  • þa hē þone cyning sōhtewhen he the king visited…
  • Cf. Modern English “man-eating tiger”
    • “Man-eating” is an OV structure
changes in word order1
Changes in Word Order
  • Nearly all Sino-Tibetan languages are SOV
  • But the Chinese languages have changed to SVO
  • The Karen languages (spoken in Thailand and Burma) have also changed to SVO
other changes in syntax
Other Changes in Syntax
  • Reanalysis and the Chinese copula
    • Classical Chinese had no verb ‘to be’
    • Copular sentences basically looked like“A B” (meaning “A is B”)
    • A common sentence was “A, shì B” meaning “As for A, this is B”
    • shì was reanalyzed be speakers as a copula -- it is the Mandarin copula today
other changes in syntax1
Other Changes in Syntax
  • If you’ve ever studied a Classical Language (Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, Arabic, Greek, etc.) then you know that the syntax can be radically different from the modern forms of those languages
  • Nearly any aspect of syntax can change!
lexical change
Lexical Change
  • Over time, the vocabulary of a language changes
  • The set of lexemes (words) shifts
  • Old words disappear, new words are added
  • Example: English spectacles, glasses
  • Word meanings also shift over time
  • Why does an old word disappear?
  • The thing referred to may no longer exist or be important in the society
  • A new word with a similar meaning may replace it
  • Sometimes there is no obvious reason
  • Where do new words come from?
  • Derivation from existing morphemes
  • English: Greek and Latin roots;Hindi: Sanskrit roots; Urdu: Arabic roots
  • Borrowings from other languages
  • Other processes (blends, acronyms, etc.)
  • Borrowed words can radically change the vocabulary [and phonology!] of a language in a short time
  • Japanese has had two massive borrowings: Chinese words (8th-12th centuries) and English words (20th-21st centuries)
japanese borrowing
Japanese Borrowing
  • In some cases an original Japanese word and an English borrowing co-exist
  • One may become obsolete, or the meaning of one or the other may shift
  • Example: “enjoy”
  • tanosimuentʃoːi-suru
korean borrowing
Korean Borrowing
  • Korean has fewer English borrowings than Japanese does
  • But just as many Chinese borrowings
  • Consider this triplet for ‘meeting’:
  • moim native Korean
  • hwɛhap Chinese borrowing
  • mithiŋ English borrowing
korean borrowing1
Korean Borrowing
  • Sometimes borrowings fill a gap in the native lexicon
  • Korean has a number of words for ‘wife’, but they all carry a particular connotation (e.g. humble, respectful)
  • Recently the English word ‘wife’ has been borrowed as waipɯ. It has a more neutral meaning.
borrowing in asian languages
Borrowing in Asian Languages
  • There are many more examples of borrowing in the LESA textbook.