Is radical analyticity normal
Implications of Niger-Congo and Southeast Asia for typology and diachronic theory
It is assumed among linguists that radical analyticity is a typological state that a language might develop into as the result of ordinary stepwise grammatical change. It is well-known that extensive second-language acquisition tends to make languages more, or even completely, analytic. Contact, however, is thought to be an alternate pathway towards analyticity. Diachronic theory has identified no mechanism via which a grammar would become completely analytic. While some affixes are worn away by phonetic erosion, inexorable processes of reconstitution operate at the same time, such as grammaticalization. The commonly cited case of Egyptian’s inflectional “cycle” described by Hodge (1970) did not depict the language reaching anything approaching a completely analytic state. There is a growing awareness that the “natural” state of language, uninterrupted by adult acquisition, is one of heavy morphological complexity, while large-scale population movements often condition languages of a more moderate morphological complexity (McWhorter 2007; Trudgill 2011). Under this assumption, radically analytic languages are diachronically anomalous. In this presentation, I will propose a contact account for the radical analyticity of a certain few west African Niger-Congo languages and for the languages of Southeast Asia.