Title: Reconstructing syntactic and semantic motivations of reanalysis
Reanalysis has long been seen as an important mechanism of both syntactic and semantic change. This paper, however, takes the view that individual changes of reanalysis depend on both the grammatical structure and the communicative use of a linguistic construction, and thus explores the interdependence of the syntactic and semantic/pragmatic motivations of reanalysis.
The focus of the paper is the reanalysis of an aspect/mood marker as a discourse connective particle in the prehistory of Marovo, an Oceanic language of the Solomon Islands. Evidence for the occurrence and direction of this change is found in the subject-marking systems of Marovo and other closely related languages. The synchronic and diachronic contexts of the change are described in detail, and a reconstruction is presented of the syntactic and semantic/ pragmatic bases for the change, as well as the redistribution of morphosyntactic and pragmatic content across the construction. It is argued that while this reanalysis appears to have been triggered by structural ambiguity resulting from a chance homophony of forms, the semantic and pragmatic content of the construction has played an equally crucial role in the change.
The reconstruction presented has been informed by accepted models of syntactic and semantic change, which are primarily based on studies of languages with recorded histories. This case study of Solomon Islands languages illustrates how documentation and description of languages without recorded histories can contribute to this understanding of processes of linguistic change.