Grammaticalization in the North: Noun phrase morphosyntax in Scandinavian vernaculars

Östen Dahl  


This book looks at some phenomena within the grammar of the noun phrase in a group of traditional North Germanic varieties mainly spoken in Sweden and Finland, usually seen as Swedish dialects, although the differences between them and Standard Swedish are often larger than between the latter and the other standard Mainland Scandinavian languages. In addition to being conservative in many respects – e.g. in preserving nominal cases and subject-verb agreement – these varieties also display many innovative features. These include extended uses of definite articles, incorporation of attributive adjectives, and a variety of possessive constructions. Although considerable attention has been given to these phenomena in earlier literature, this book is the first to put them in the perspective of typology and grammaticalization processes. It also looks for a plausible account of the historical origin of the changes involved, arguing that many of them spread from central Sweden, where they were later reverted due to the influence from prestige varieties coming from southern Scandinavia.


  • Review in Nordic Journal of Linguistics by Kersti Börjars published November 29, 2017
    All in all, I think this is a gem of a book, in particular because of the wealth of data and the typological take on varieties of a language. The main point relating to innovation in Peripheral Swedish is most clearly made with respect to the spread of definiteness, but Dahl recognises that issues with the data with respect to attributive constructions and possessive constructions make it harder to be as confident about the conclusions. Still, the general idea is well illustrated. The level of detail does at times make it hard for the reader to discern the overall pattern, but the wealth of data is a major asset of the book. More maps earlier in the book, illustrating the spread of major patterns across the varieties, would have been helpful here.


Author Biography

Östen Dahl, Stockholm University
Östen Dahl is Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Stockholm, Sweden. In recent years, his research has mainly been typologically oriented with a strong interest in diachronic approaches to grammar, in particular areas such as tense and aspect, negation, and definiteness marking. His publications include the monographs Tense and Aspect Systems (1985) and The growth and maintenance of linguistic complexity (2004) and the edited volumes Tense and Aspect in the Languages of Europe (2000) and The Circum-Baltic Languages: Typology and Contact (2 vols, 2002, co-edited with Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm). Together with Jens Allwood and Lars-Gunnar Andersson he published the textbook Logic in Linguistics (1977). He has also written several textbooks in Swedish.
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June 11, 2015
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Dahl, Östen. 2015. Grammaticalization in the North: Noun phrase morphosyntax in Scandinavian vernaculars. (Studies in Diversity Linguistics 6). Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI: 10.17169/langsci.b73.17


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