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International Conference on Historical Linguistics

H. Andersen’s “Abductive and Deductive Change” and Croatian Idioms



Keiko Mitani


In his article “Abductive and Deductive Change” (1973), Henning Andersen stated that two types of inference, “abduction” and “deduction,” are operative in the phonological change of language, and both “evolutive” and “adaptive” change, which are mostly equivalent to what have been traditionally referred to as “internal” and “external” change, respectively, involve these two types of inference, but in a different manner. The evolutive change in phonology occurs as a result of abductive innovation followed by deductive process, whereas the adaptive change requires two-fold abduction before an innovation reaches the deductive level of inference. Andersen’s model was succinct and broadly recognized in the field of linguistics for its explanatory power. With respect to the study of historical linguistics, however, his proposal, at least its adequacy for explaining various aspects of language change, is open to reevaluation. Just because Andersen’s model may adequately account for the structural process in phonological change, it does not necessarily mean that other phenomena of language change, such as the emergence and decline of particular grammatical categories, word-order change, and semantic shift of lexical items, can be explained by his model in the same manner. In particular, the availability of the two-fold abduction model, proposed for the adaptive change of phonology, should be examined in relation to different manifestations of the effect of language contact. Regarding the long dispute in contact linguistics on the borrowability of structure and its sociolinguistic relevancy, a question arises whether or not this two-fold abductive model could be integrated into the development of an explanatory model for structural borrowing. With these thoughts in mind, this presentation will deal with diachronic change in Croatian idioms, especially in such idioms formed and being formed in language contact. Objectives of examination are Croatian dialects spoken in present-day Croatia and those spoken outside Croatia, namely, idioms currently used in Austria’s Burgenland and an idiom once spoken in southernmost Moravia. Language phenomena taken as illustrations will be morphosyntactic as well as semantic, such as nominal case markers, clitic alignment, expression of the future perfect, and the functional shift of prepositions. Our examination will inevitably include also an evaluation of the validity of Andersen’s model itself. By introducing two sets of terms and notions, namely, abductive and deductive innovation, alongside evolutive and adaptive change, Andersen succeeded in proposing a well-formed explanation for phonological change. However, a question remains concerning the essential difference between Andersen’s model and the traditional way of understanding historical change, articulated by such terms as “reanalysis,” “analogy,” and “generalization.” What is the benefit of using the terms of logical operation to explain diachronic change in a language system which always includes in itself variability and probability? This question will be addressed against the background of a peculiar phenomenon, the use of the third person plural form to denote the third person singular human object found in the Čakavian as well as Kajkavian dialects.


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