In linguistics, grammaticalization (also known as grammatization, grammaticization) is a process by which words representing objects and actions (i.e. nouns and verbs) transform through sound change and language migration to become grammatical objects (affixes and prepositions, etc.). Grammaticalization is a powerful aspect of language, as it creates new function words within language, by separating functions from their original inflectional and bound constructions (i.e. from content words). It is a field of research in historical linguistics, in the wider study of language change, which focuses on a particular process of lexical and grammatical change.

For an understanding of this process, a distinction needs to be made between lexical items, or content words, which carry specific lexical meaning, and grammatical items, or function words, with little or no lexical meaning which serve to express grammatical relationships between the different words within an utterance. Specifically, "the change whereby lexical terms and constructions come in certain linguistic contexts to serve grammatical functions, and, once grammaticalized, continue to develop new grammatical functions". Simply said, grammaticalization is the process in which a lexical word or a word cluster loses some or all of its lexical meaning and starts to fulfil a more grammatical function. It means that nouns and verbs which carry certain lexical meaning develop over time into grammatical items such as auxiliaries, case markers, inflections and sentence connectives.

A well-known example of grammaticalization is that of the process in which the lexical cluster let us, for example in the sentence "let us go", is reduced to a single word let's as in the sentence "let's you and me fight". The phrase has lost its lexical meaning of "allow us" and has changed into an auxiliary, while the pronoun 'us' reduced first to a suffix and then to an unanalyzed phoneme.

Read more about GrammaticalizationHistory, Mechanisms, Clines, Unidirectionality Hypothesis, Views On Grammaticalization

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Views On Grammaticalization
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Yaghan Language - Grammar - Grammaticalization
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Bernd Heine - Publications
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