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

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-50
Number of pages17
JournalProceedings of the Linguistic Society of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - 9 Jun 2020


  • General Linguistics
  • Semitics


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