Syntactic change

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In the field of linguistics, syntactic change is the evolution of the syntactic structure of a natural language.


If one regards a language as vocabulary cast into the mould of a particular syntax (with functional items maintaining the basic structure of a sentence and with the lexical items filling in the blanks), syntactic change no doubt plays the greatest role in modifying the physiognomy of a particular language. Syntactic change affects grammar in its morphological and syntactic aspects and is one of the types of change observed in language change.

Syntactic change is a phenomenon creating a shift in language patterns over time, subject to cyclic drift.[1] The morphological idiosyncrasies of today are seen as the outcome of yesterday's regular syntax.[2] For instance, in English, the past tense of the verb to go is not goed or any other form based on the base go, as could be expected, but went, a borrowing from the past tense of the verb to wend.

Over time, syntactic change is the greatest modifier of a particular language. Massive changes may occur both in syntax and vocabulary and are attributable to either creolization or relexification.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Henri Wittmann (1983). "Les réactions en chaîne en morphologie diachronique." Actes du Colloque de la Société internationale de linguistique fonctionnelle 10.285-92.[1]
  2. ^ Talmy Givon, Historical syntax and synchronic morphology: an archaeologist's field trip. Papers from the Regional Meetings of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 1971, 7.394-415.