Underspecification, Parsing Mismatches and Routinisation: The Historical Development of the Clitic Systems of Greek Dialects

In this paper, the historical development of the clitic systems of Standard Modern, Cypriot and Pontic Greek is discussed. These three varieties not only present the whole range of variation one can find across clitic systems in Greek but, furthermore, derive from a common linguistic ancestor, i.e. Koine Greek. This paper argues that the transition from Koine Greek to the Medieval varieties and from the Medieval varieties to the respective modern ones can be explained by making the assumption that routinisation (in the sense of Pickering and Garrod in Behav Brain Sci 27:169--226, 2004) and parsing/hearer assymetries are two important factors behind syntactic change. The claim is that the transition from Koine to the Medieval Greek varieties involves the emergence of a clitic system with encoded syntactic constraints out of a freer one, where clitic positioning was regulated by pragmatic preferences rather than syntactic constraints. Then, the transition to the modern varieties from the respective medieval ones is explained, at least partly, on the assumption that production/parsing mismatches are capable of triggering syntactic change. This last assumption combined with: (a) the tendency to obtain more generalised parsing triggers for parsing the individual clitics and (b) the fact that the Medieval varieties in question differ in minimal but crucial ways, provides us an explanation for the transition to the modern varieties.
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Journal of Logic, Language and Information
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