Journal article Open Access

Functional categories, X-bar-theory, and grammaticalization theory

Haspelmath, Martin

ABSTRACT: The paper reviews a number of parallels between grammaticalization theory and Chomskyan syntax that are not apparent because of the radically different ways of talking in these two research traditions. First, the recently rediscovered ‘functional categories’ evidently correspond to highly grammaticalized elements. Second, neither functional categories nor highly grammaticalized elements are restricted to either word or affix status. Third, several functional categories have head status both from the point of view of Chomskyan syntax and from the point of view of grammaticalization theory. However, these parallels break down when determiners are concerned, and the treatment of head and dependent marking is also different in both approaches. The reason seems to be that Chomskyan syntax primarily aims at formal elegance and therefore sometimes makes arbitrary choices which are overgeneralized.

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