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Title: The role of contact in the explanation of syntactic change
Author: Farrar, K. J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1996
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In the past, contact with other languages has rarely been adduced as an explanation for syntactic change. In my dissertation, I discuss the reasons for this bias against language contact, whether it can be justified and the implications of a change in approach to the role of contact in explanation. The bias against contact is perpetuated for two mains reasons. One is the lack of an appropriate model for explanation in historical linguistics which would allow principled reference to both internal and external motivating factors. The shortcomings of previously suggested models are discussed, and a more suitable alternative, the 'Invisible Hand' Model, is proposed. The second major reason for the rejection of contact is an unfortunate emphasis in contact linguistics itself. Researchers have started from the premise that syntactic borrowing is an extremely rare phenomenon, and therefore attention has been focused on identifying constraints on such contact-induced change. Many of the constraints that have been proposed can be shown to be not only contradicted by counterexamples of changes in the world's languages, but also theoretically unsound. The implications of altering our approach to explanation and the role of contact as an explanatory factor is discussed with reference to two case studies: the change to consistent subject-verb-object order in Medieval English, and the change to verb-second order in Modern German subordinate clauses. In both cases contact-based explanations are proposed and can be seen to be equally as plausible as the suggested internal accounts. It seems, therefore, that historical linguists are faced with an impossible decision, as to whether to accept the internal or external explanations offered.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available