How Come that English has such a Restricted Grammar?
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||Nov 11, 2008|
This is a linguistics paper published in eHistLing (English Historical Linguistics). The full title is “How Come that English has such a Restricted Grammar? A Comparison with German” by Guillaume Schiltz and Andreas Langlotz. Abstract:
Revisiting a common folk-linguistic prejudice – the idea that languages differ with regard to their grammatical complexity - we introduce grammar as global system of linguistic competence that is equally functional in every language. By comparing the historical development of English and German, two genetically close languages, we deconstruct the prejudice. On the one hand, the divergent evolution of word order constraints in the respective syntax-systems connected to a loss of inflections in English and in German explains the impression of an easy English grammar from a linguacentristic German perspective. The emergence of natural gender in English, on the other hand, shows that the English grammar did not become less complex when compared to German but that it developed alternative coding constraints: formerly gender was a purely lexical marker but shifted to a semantic feature; this extended the grammatical system considerably.