A formal approach to reanalysis: The case of a negative counterfactual marker

Elitzur A. Bar-Asher Siegal


This paper proposes a formal definition of reanalysis, while emphasizing the importance of the distinction between two different kinds of reanalysis: those in which the change is confined to the grammatical level, and those in which it is confined to the semantic level. After tracing the history of a negative counterfactual conditional marker in Hebrew and Aramaic which underwent both syntactic and semantic reanalyses, the paper assesses the concept of reanalysis with focus on the following questions: Is reanalysis a single, clearly-defined phenomenon, and if so, what is its nature? Is it merely a descriptive label for a certain observable state of affairs, or does it explain diachronic changes? Alternatively, perhaps it is a theoretical constraint, a theoretical requirement that linguistic change must be associated with specific environments where reanalysis can take place? A detailed analysis of the marker and its evolution yields the following broad hypothesis: Reanalysis of a linguistic form does not change the truth conditions of the proposition that contains it, regardless of whether the reanalysis is on the grammatical level or on the semantic level.


reanalysis; historical linguistics; formal diachronic semantics; negative counterfactuals

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v5i2.4792

Copyright (c) 2020 Elitzur A. Bar-Asher Siegal

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