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Formal mismatches and functional advantage in syntactic change

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This paper relies on the idea that syntactic change stems from linguistic factors that are different in nature and, consequently, trigger different results. Specifically, I distinguish the causes, processes and results related to two different kinds of syntactic change, a ‘formal’ type of change vs. a ‘functional’ one. The hypotheses pursued here are the following: (i) Mismatches between the formal features a learner has acquired and certain data she receives during the language acquisition period lead to a syntactic change type, which restructures completely the syntactic derivation involved; (ii) The advantage of parsing one variant over parsing another triggers a different kind of change, namely one that affects specific instances or uses / registers of the crucial syntactic structure. To illustrate this, I analyze the role of functional advantage and formal changes in the historical development of the case system of Russian non-verbal predication.
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Keywords: Middle Russian; Old Russian; case feature; formal mismatch; functional advantage; parsability; syntactic change; theta-role

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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  • International Journal for Historical Linguistics
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