Featural dynamics in morphosyntactic change

Ris Edda Nowenstein, Anton Karl Ingason

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines Icelandic Dative Substitution (DS) and argues that two of its diachronic side effects, referred to as Person-Specific Retention and an Elsewhere Condition Death Rattle, are explained by the way in which formal features constrain the trajectory of morphosyntactic change. The study is based on naturally occurring data and a recent language acquisition experiment and the analysis draws on weighted grammatical rules as well as Yang’s Tolerance Principle. It is argued that DS does not necessarily involve a change in the syntax, but should rather be viewed as a change in the interpretation of syntactic information at the interface with morphology, resulting in variability on the surface. The results are analyzed in the context of recent theories on specialization in linguistic change and the dynamics of variation in individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSyntactic Features and the Limits of Syntactic Change
PublisherOxford University Press, Oxford
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780198832584
ISBN (Print)9780198832584
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Iris Edda Nowenstein and Anton Karl Ingason.

Other keywords

  • Dative Substitution
  • Features
  • Grammatical conditioning
  • Historical change
  • Icelandic
  • Variation


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