NIAS workshop Constructional Change in the Languages of Europe, January 12-14, 2012. Left to right: Arie Verhagen, Gijsbert Rutten, Elizabeth Traugott, Jóhanna Barðdal, Martin Hilpert, Ton van der Wouden, Gudrun Rawoens, Timothy Colleman, Geert Booij, Graeme Trousdale.

The interface of grammar, lexicon and discourse

The study of grammaticalization has been one of the primary foci in historical linguistics since the early 1990s and continues to expand, a recent offshoot being the alignment of grammaticalization studies and construction grammar. My own research in this area is both theoretical and empirical. In my theoretical research I focus on which version of construction grammar is best fitted for historical purposes, and how this can be modeled into a framework that can account for all types of change in both grammar and lexicon. My primary data are drawn from Scandinavian languages, English and Dutch, and put in a cross-linguistic perspective. At present, I am working on the following collaborative projects:

Recent grants

  • 2020-2023: Register emergence and register change in Germanic. Project grant within the Collaborative Research Centre Register. Language-Users’ Knowledge of Situational-Functional Variation; SFB 1412) funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.
  • 2016-2017: Language change: A constructional Approach. Sabbatical to write a textbook  funded by the Exzellenzinitiative at HU Berlin.
  • 2015-2017: Clusters of Change. Project grant for an online interactive database funded by the Förderprogramm Digitale Medien in Lehre und Forschung at HU Berlin.

PhD supervision (as first promotor)

  • Karin Beijering, Groningen. Project title: Expressions of Epistemic Modality in Mailand Scandinavian. PhD awarded October 11th, 2012.
  • Kirsten Kolstrup, Groningen. Project title: Opportunities for speaking a second language. Learner agency in formal and informal contexts. PhD awarded June 4th, 2015.
  • Oscar Strik, Groningen. Project title: Modelling Analogical Language Variation in Space and Time. The Development of Swedish and Frisian Verb Morphology. PhD awarded October 15th, 2015.

Past projects

2007-2008: Degrammaticalization

financed by The Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research (NWO)

In 2007-2008 I received a teaching replacement grant to write a  monograph on degrammaticalization, published by Oxford University Press in 2009. Here’s the blurb:

“Grammaticalization is a well-attested process of linguistic change in which a lexical item becomes a function word, which may be further reduced to a clitic or affix. Proponents of the universality of grammaticalization have usually argued that it is unidirectional and have thus found it a useful tool in linguistic reconstruction. In this book Prof Norde shows that change is reversible on all levels: semantic, morphological, syntactic, and phonological. As a consequence, the alleged unidirectionality of grammaticalization is not a reliable reconstructional tool, even if degrammaticalization is a rare phenomenon.           

Degrammaticalization, she argues, is essentially different from grammaticalization: it usually comprises a single change, examples being shifts from affix to clitic, or from function word to lexical item. And where grammaticalization can be seen as a process, degrammaticalization is often the by-product of other changes. Nevertheless, she shows that it can be described, like grammaticalization, in a principled way, in order to establish whether a change in a word has been from more to less grammatical or vice versa, and the stages by which it has become so. Using data from different languages she constructs a typology of degrammaticalization changes. She explains why degrammaticalization is so rare and why some linguists have such strongly negative feelings about the possibility of its existence. She adds to the understanding of grammaticalization and makes a significant contribution to methods of linguistic reconstruction and the study of language change. She writes clearly, aiming to be understood by advanced undergraduate students as well as appealing to scholars and graduate researchers in historical linguistics.”

2002-2006: Is zero the final stage in grammaticalization? Some surprising effects of deflexion in Continental Scandinavian

Postdoctoral Project financed by The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)

The main aim of thisproject was to present a detailed description of the gradual decline of the Continental Scandinavian case system, based on an extensive database of relevant constructions. These fundamental changes were approached from three different angles. First of all, the project adressed the crucial question of whether loss really is the inevitable fate of inflexional material, as predicted by the so-called unidirectionality hypothesis in grammaticalization theory. I found that loss is inevitable eventually, but that there existed an intermediary stage (which has been little studied so far) during which inflexional case marking was reinforced. Secondly, I found  that the form of the noun and its modifi­ers is not only determined by syntactic rules of government, but by the inflexional classes they belong to as well. Thirdly, the inflection of native words were contrasted with the inflection of and loan-words.


1998-2002: Grammaticalization in its final stages: deflexion and related changes in continental Scandinavian

Postdoctoral Project financed by the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research (NWO)

This project aimed at refining earlier accounts of deflexion in Swedish, and to to provide a coherent analysis of the loss of oblique case inflections and the increasing use of prepositional constructions as a case study in grammaticalization patterns. The primary research questions were the following:

1: How did the decline of case inflections proceed in space and time?

2: Which endings were retained and what function did they acquire? Are these changes in accordance with theoretical claims about the final stages of grammaticalization?

3: What prepositional constructions were used to encode grammatical relations formerly expressed by the oblique cases genitive, dative and accusative? How was the grammaticalization of new prepositions achieved?

4: What is the chronological relation between the loss of oblique cases and the rise of periphrastic prepositional constructions? Does the increasing use of prepositions precede or follow the decline of inflectional case or did both processes occur simultaneously?

5: Are there any grammatical and / or semantic differences between the old and the new construction, in other words, is it legitimate to treat them as equivalents?

1991-1997: The history of the genitive in Swedish. A Case study in degrammaticalization

PhD Project funded by the University of Amsterdam


After I graduated in Scandinavian Linguistics I worked on my PhD research at the Universities of Amsterdam and Uppsala, which resulted in my 1997 PhD thesis. Here’s the blurb:

“Degrammaticalization, the shift from a more grammatical to a less grammatical status, appears to be extremely rare. Yet a clear example of degrammaticalization is found in several contemporary Germanic languag­es, viz the s-genitive. The s-genitive (as in English the queen of England's power), is most suitably analysed as a phrase-final clitic, but unlike other clitics it does not derive from a lexical item, but from an inflectional ending.

This study presents a survey of the rise of the s-genitive in one language, namely Swedish. Covering a period of more than 700 years (from the beginning of the Runic Swedish period until the influential 1541 bible translation), it is concerned with both phonological, morphological and syntactic aspects of the Swedish genitive. From the historical data presented in this book, it becomes evident that ‑s, initially only the genitive singular of masculine and neuter (i/j)a-stems, was first re­analysed as a phrase marker before it spread to other declensions.

The book also provides a discussion of both internal and external factors that are usually held responsible for the loss of inflectional morphology in the continental Scandinavian languages, as well as a contrastive survey of possessive constructions in Germanic.”

(c) 2013