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Micro-change and Macro-change in Diachronic Syntax$
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Eric Mathieu and Robert Truswell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747840

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198747840.001.0001

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Where do relative specifiers come from?

Where do relative specifiers come from?

(p.25) 3 Where do relative specifiers come from?
Micro-change and Macro-change in Diachronic Syntax

Nikolas Gisborne

Robert Truswell

Oxford University Press

Headed relative clauses with filled Spec,CP positions are cross-linguistically rare, but have emerged repeatedly in Indo-European languages. We explore this unusual typological fact by examining the emergence and spread of English headed wh-relatives. The major claims developed in this chapter are: (1) aspects of the diachrony of headed wh-relatives must be reduced to competing specifications of the behaviour of a given lexical item, rather than to competition among multiple forms associated with a given function; (2) headed wh-relatives spread gradually from form to form, rather than spreading gradually up the Accessibility Hierarchy as assumed in much earlier work. We suggest that the unusual typology of headed relatives with filled specifiers can then be understood in terms of inheritance of a stable set of lexical items from Proto-Indo-European, and biases affecting acquisition of the syntactic properties of these items.

Keywords:   relative clause, diachronic typology, Accessibility Hierarchy, Middle English, acquisition bias

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