The Behavior-before-Coding Principle in morphosyntactic change: evidence from verbal rather.

Rachel Klippenstein


Haspelmath (2010), extending a proposal by Cole et al. (1980), suggested as a principle of morphosyntactic change that behavioral properties (those ‘reflected in (inflectional) morphological distinctions’) change before coding properties (‘syntactic properties without morphological reflexes’).

Evidence from Google Books shows reanalysis of the adverb 'rather' as a verb in phrases like 'I would rather VERB'. In the late 1500s, 'rather' shows behavioral properties of verbhood, appearing in contexts that require a verb; however, it does not show coding properties of verbhood in the form of verbal morphology until the late 1800s. This development pattern supports the behavior-before-coding principle.

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