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I want to know the meaning of “today's morphology is yesterday's syntax

asked 2015-07-07 18:58:33 -0400

kujirazame gravatar image

updated 2015-07-11 00:12:23 -0400

usagi5886 gravatar image

I want to ask Thomas Givon's aphorism “today's morphology is yesterday's syntax.

In my country, there is a little information about his aphorism.

I suppose this aphorism relates to historical linguistics.

For example, English phrase “all be it” and “on to” changed “albeit” and “onto” according to Wikipedia.

I guess yesterday’s syntactical of “all be it” and “on to” changed “albeit” and “onto” of today’s morpheme .

Is that right? If my answer is wrong, would you please correct it

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answered 2015-07-11 00:27:20 -0400

usagi5886 gravatar image

updated 2015-07-11 00:28:15 -0400

I guess yesterday’s syntactical of “all be it” and “on to” changed “albeit” and “onto” of today’s morpheme .

That's right. The insight behind the quote is that, over time, what used to be a normal construction created through productive syntactic rules eventually can become 'crystallized' into a single word or morpheme.

A good example is gonna. I quote the following from its Wikipedia page:

The going-to future originated by the extension of the spatial sense of the verb go to a temporal sense (a common change – the same phenomenon can be seen in the preposition before). The original construction involved physical movement with an intention, such as "I am going [outside] to harvest the crop." The location later became unnecessary, and the expression was reinterpreted to represent a near future.

This shows how gonna was originally a normal syntactic construction (be + VERB-ing + to). In contrast, in modern colloquial English, gonna patterns (in certain ways) as if it were a single word.

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Asked: 2015-07-07 18:58:33 -0400

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Last updated: Jul 11 '15