Positioning reanalysis and reanalysis research

Keywords: reanalysis, grammaticalization, analogy


Reanalysis is recognized as a key concept of grammatical change across theoretical frameworks. Despite its widespread use, its role and nature are controversially discussed in current research. Introducing this special issue, our paper gives an overview of major positions that have been proposed, as well as of the papers in this issue. This will allow us to identify core elements of reanalysis as well as points of debate concerning, e.g., the definition of reanalysis and its subtypes, the role of ambiguity and different types of constraints, features such as directionality, abruptness/gradualness and the covert nature of reanalysis. Further issues include the roles of speaker and hearer, language acquisition, language contact, high and low frequency scenarios, and the relationship between grammaticalization, analogy and reanalysis. We will show that some of the controversies arise from differences in basic assumptions about linguistic structures and language change in general. We will argue that processes at the individual level and at the level of speech communities should not be confounded, and that reanalysis as hearer-induced innovation needs to be distinguished from reanalysis as ratification. Finally, we will highlight a range of perspectives for further research on reanalysis that can inform research on language change and related matters more broadly.
Special Issue: Whither Reanalysis?