LOT Winter School 2018

CANCELLED Historical Syntax

Marion Elenbaas


Leiden University


Course info



Course description:

What are the triggers of syntactic change? What are the mechanisms of syntactic change? How can we trace syntactic change? We will focus on these (and other) questions by discussing relevant literature and by studying a number of case studies of syntactic change.

You will work in small groups, each group selecting a case study of syntactic change on Monday, which you will work on together (in class as well as out of class) as the week progresses. Each group presents a short pitch about their case study in Friday’s session.

Preparation for Monday’s session:

a) Select an example of syntactic change (from any language), for example based on your topic of research.

b) Find some literature on the example of your choice.

c) Bring your notes to Monday’s session as input for your group.

Day-to-day programme:


Introduction: What lies ahead this week: mechanisms of syntactic change; tools and methods; major issues; explanations of syntactic change; case studies

Group work: Discussion of case studies and selection of one case study per group

Mechanisms of syntactic change

Class discussion: How does syntactic change happen?

Group work: Inventory of the mechanism(s) involved in the case study

Major issues

Class discussion: How does syntactic change start? Where does syntactic change start? How does syntactic change proceed? Is syntactic change gradual or abrupt?

Group work: Chart the possible actuation scenario(s) and the progress of the syntactic change in the case study



Class discussion: How can syntactic change be explained? Which internal factors can be identified? Which external factors play a role?

Group work: Assessment of possible explanations for the syntactic change in the case study



Class discussion: Current and future issues and perspectives in studying syntactic change

Group presentations: Short, final pitches about the case studies (5-10 minutes)

Reading list

Background and preparatory readings:

Rissanen, Matti. 1989. Three problems connected with the use of diachronic corpora. ICAME Journal 13:16-19.

(More to be announced)

Course readings (obligatory):

Class 1:

Kroch, Anthony. 2001. Syntactic change. In The Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic

Theory ed. by Mark Baltin & Chris Collins, 699-729. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Class 2:

Heine, Bernd. 2003. Grammaticalization. In The Handbook of Historical Linguistics, ed. by Brian D. Joseph & Richard D. Janda, 575-601. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Class 3:

Traugott, Elizabeth Closs & Graeme Trousdale. 2010. Gradience, gradualness and grammaticalization. In Gradience, gradualness and grammaticalization, ed. by Elizabeth Closs Traugott and Graeme Trousdale, 19-44. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Class 4:

Campbell, Lyle. 2004. Historical linguistics, second edition. Edinburg: Edinburgh University

Press. [chapter 11, esp. pp.316-326]

Class 5:

To be announced

Further readings (optional):

Biberauer, Teresa & George Walkden (eds.). 2015. Syntax over time: Lexical, morphological, and information-structural interactions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Campbell, Lyle. 2004. Historical linguistics, second edition. Edinburg: Edinburgh University


Denison, David. 2003. Log(ist)ic and simplistic S-curves. In Motives for linguistic change, ed.

by Raymond Hickey, 54-70. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gerritsen, Marinel & Dieter Stein. 1992. Internal and external factors in syntactic change. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Harris, Alice C. & Lyle Campbell. 1995. Historical syntax in cross-linguistic perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heine, Bernd & Tania Kuteva. 2005. Language contact and grammatical change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hickey, Raymond. 2012. Internally and externally motivated language change. In The Handbook of Historical Sociolinguistics, ed. by Juan Manuel Hernández-Compoy and Juan Camilo Conde-Silvestre, 401-421. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.

Hopper, Paul J. & Elizabeth Closs Traugott. 2003. Grammaticalization. 2nd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Joseph, Brian D. & Richard D. Janda (eds.). 2003. The Handbook of Historical Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Kroch, Anthony. 1989. Reflexes of grammar in patterns of language change. Language

Variation and Change 1:199-244.

Ledgeway, Adam & Ian Roberts (eds.). 2017. The Cambridge Handbook of Historical Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Meurman-Solin, Anneli, Maria Jose Lopez-Couso & Bettelou Los, eds. 2012. Information

structure and syntactic change in the history of English. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pintzuk, Susan, George Tsoulas & Anthony Warner, eds. 2000. Diachronic syntax:

Models and mechanisms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Roberts, Ian. 2014. Syntactic change. In The Routledge Handbook of Syntax, ed. by Andrew Carnie, Dan Siddiqi and Yosuke Sato, 391-408. New York: Routledge.

Willis, David. 1998. Syntactic change in Welsh: A study of the loss of verb-second. Oxford: Clarendon Press. [chapter 2: Syntactic change]