Synchrony and Diachrony: A dynamic interface
The aim of this volume is to investigate the mutual relations between synchrony and diachrony, in order to shed light on their interface and to analyze the most adequate tools to describe and understand its manifestations.
That the two dimensions of language variation are closely intertwined is nothing new, although at different stages in the history of linguistics their relation has been
overlooked, if not explicitly ignored (see Section 2). However little effort has been made to provide a unitary account of their interface and, more importantly, little attention has been devoted to a systematic examination of the theoretical and methodological tools through which this interface can be better captured and analyzed. In this volume, we aim (i) to put together a good sample of phenomena in which the synchrony-diachrony interface is crucial both at the descriptive and at the explanatory level, (ii) to compare how different theoretical frameworks and different methodological tools may account for such interface phenomena, (iii) to identify those factors that are more frequently at play in the interface between synchrony and diachrony.
Some manifestations of the synchrony-diachrony interface are widely recognized, as is the case of the relationship between gradualness in diachronic change and gradience in synchronic variation (see Traugott & Trousdale 2010). Others are more frequently investigated within one or the other domain of variation, though crucially implying both, such as multifunctionality patterns or constructions (cf. Cysouw 2007 & Goldberg 2006 for mainly synchronic perspectives, van der Auwera 2008 for a diachronic approach). We take as manifestations of the interface all those phenomena whose description and/or explanation cannot abstract from the dynamic relation between diachronic and synchronic variation (see Section 3).
There are appropriate tools and models to examine each of these perspectives on language. However, as will be argued on the basis of the data collected in the volume,
we believe that the synchrony-diachrony interface can be better captured and understood through those methodological tools that can be suitably applied to the synchronic as well as the diachronic dimension, such as semantic maps or constructional approaches (exemplified, respectively, in the chapters by van der Auwera and Trousdale). In other words, we argue that there are models that allow us to look at diachronic and synchronic phenomena through the same lenses, thus favouring the identification of the relationship between the two axes (see Section 4).
The book addresses a number of crucial theoretical and methodological issues in the debate on diachrony and synchrony and provides evidence for the following:
–– how the study of language change can benefit from the most recent achievements in linguistic theories
–– how diachronic change can be driven by synchronically available options
–– how the explanations of synchronic variation may be found in diachronic processes
–– how synchronic variation can be the source for diachronic change
–– how diachronic gradualness and synchronic variation may be analyzed through the same lenses and by means of the same theoretical instruments
–– how contact may shed light on both synchronic variation and diachronic gradualness
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