The historical evolution of the German present perfect from the perspective of complexity theory and emergent grammar

Valentina Concu, Purdue University


The purpose of this study is to understand the meaning of the present perfect in Modern German and also, to trace its development in the early stages of German. Therefore, the synchronic analysis, in which I analyze articles from a famous German magazine, is combined with the diachronic study of the present perfect attestations in Old High German and Middle High German. This study is conducted within a Complexity-Theory and Emergent Grammar approach in which languages are viewed as dynamic system that changes over time, and grammar is seen as an epiphenomenon and a result of communicative needs among speakers. This study shows that German speakers use the present perfect with a particular pragmatic function, which started to emerge already in Old High German. This work also highlights the relevance of diachronic research for a deeper understanding of grammar, as well as the importance of a pragmatic approach when addressing grammar in general.




Sundquist, Purdue University.

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