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Word-external properties in a typology of Modern English: a comparison with German

Abstract

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018 A large number of grammatical and lexical changes occurred in Middle and Early Modern English leading to the type of language we witness today. Other West Germanic languages were more conservative. This article focuses on some of the major contrasts between Modern English and German and proposes a new unifying generalization for them, going beyond Sapir's (1921) ‘drift’ and the comparative typology of Hawkins (1986, 1995). The contrasts involve a systematic expansion in word-external properties in English, whereby individual words carry less syntactic and semantic information in their grammatical and lexical representations and have become more reliant on neighboring words for the assignment of linguistic properties. Defining drift in this way captures more of the observed contrasts and subsumes counterexamples to earlier unifying generalizations. It also has implications for theories of real-time language processing and for the interface between linguistic typology and psycholinguistics.

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