Article published in:Lexical Issues in the Architecture of the Language Faculty
Edited by Andrea Padovan
[Evolutionary Linguistic Theory 2:1] 2020
► pp. 30–55
Where do complementizers come from and how did they come about?
A re-evaluation of the parataxis-to-hypotaxis hypothesis
It is an old and widespread assumption in historical linguistics that hypotactic structures evolved out from paratactic structures. In more recent times, the parataxis-to-hypotaxis hypothesis was associated with the assumption that syntactic structures are discourse-based. This means that hypotactic structures evolved via syntacticization, i.e., via “a process by which flat, paratactic discourse-pragmatic structures transform over time into tight, hierarchic syntactic structures” (Givón 1979: 82f.). One special aspect of this assumption is that complementizers are held to have grammaticalized from nouns, verbs, prepositions, or pronouns in bi-sentential, paratactic source structures. In this paper, I will re-evaluate the existing evidence for the parataxis-to-hypotaxis hypothesis with special focus on the emergence of complementizers. The result of the re-evaluation is that in all cases, where we have enough historical data to reconstruct the development in detail, we have to assume a source structure that already displays subordination. In most cases, the subordinate clause is a relative clause suggesting that relativization is probably the oldest form of subordination. The over-all result of the re-evaluation is that there is no reliable evidence at all for the parataxis-to-hypotaxis hypothesis in its current form.
Keywords: complementizer, grammaticalization, parataxis-to-hypotaxis hypothesis, parataxis, hypotaxis
Published online: 06 November 2020
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