n Acta Germanica : German Studies in Africa - Grammatikalisierungspfade in europäischen und afrikanischen Sprachen : Sprache, Linguistik, Übersetzung

Volume 34, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1273



The paper shows that grammaticalization, the change by which lexical elements develop into grammatical elements, proceeds in exactly the same pathways in European and African languages. It takes the development of auxiliaries, adverbs and conjunctions as examples to demonstrate that grammaticalization in these unrelated languages follows the same direction from concrete to abstract, so that the same grammaticalization chains appear. During grammaticalization the same processes can be observed, especially semantic bleaching. It is argued that the use of metaphors and metonymies and of conversational implicatures play a decisive role in order to express abstract meanings. In the final section an explanation is given for the parallelisms in all these languages, for the universality and unidirectionality of grammaticalization pathways. It is argued that grammaticalization is dominated by a principle of expressivity or a maxim of extravagance. Speakers use unusually explicit and expressive formulations in order to attract attention and to facilitate the understanding of abstract relations.

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