I have encountered two terms recently: grammaticalization and grammaticisation. While in most papers I have read so far both terms seem to be used interchangeably, the following paper appears to differentiate between them: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3250214/

Hence, my question: What difference, if any, is there between the two terms?

Many thanks for any suggestions, references or just comments.



Thanks to @Gaston Ümlaut's comment, my current understanding of the term gramaticization as used in the paper is that it is restricted to the result rather than the process, and, perhaps, that it only refers rather narrowly to a lexeme → grammatical formative kind of development, and not, say, the pragmatic → syntactic type of change/result. Is this correct? And have others distinguished the two terms in any way?

  • 2
    They do define 'grammaticization' and point to a reference where 'grammaticalization' is defined, so you could look that up to see how they differ. They apparently treat the two terms as having slight differences (I had always thought they meant the same). – Gaston Ümlaut Aug 9 '15 at 22:45
  • Thanks for pointing that out to me, @GastonÜmlaut. To me as a non-native speaker of English the definition appears somewhat odd though: For our purposes, we use the term grammaticization to refer to the result of processes that turn lexemes into grammatical formatives (highlights mine). The -ization ending simply does not feel like a result, but that might be just my impression. :-) I have looked up the reference, by the way. The authors do not differentiate between g-ization and g-alization either. But I'll keep looking. Thanks again! – Pavel Jetušek Aug 9 '15 at 23:19
  • Grammaticaiization is often applied to the [cycle of synthetic - analytic - synthetic[(umich.edu/~jlawler/Grammaticalization.pdf) in historical linguistics. – jlawler Aug 9 '15 at 23:22
  • 2
    Thank you, @jlawler, but you seem to have missed what my question is really about. I do know what grammaticalization generally refers to. I was only puzzled by the idiosyncratic use of its variant gramaticization in the paper mentioned above. My current understanding of gramaticization as used in that paper is that it is restricted to the result rather than the process, and, perhaps, that it only refers narrowly to the lexemegrammatical formative development, and not, say, pragmaticsyntactic type of change/result. I am far from sure though. – Pavel Jetušek Aug 9 '15 at 23:33

The difference seems to be how you frame the concept. From Hopper and Traugott's book, some linguists believe that grammaticalisation could be understood as 'entering the grammar of a language', i.e. 'becoming grammatical', which assumes that 'grammar' is an fixed entity which things can enter and leave. Grammaticisation, by contrast, focuses on the lexical item being grammaticalised itself - it's the process whereby this lexical item becomes more and more narrow in distribution and the phrases containing it become more and more formulaic, and eventually the item acts as a functional word rather than a lexical one. H&T do not commit to this distinction, but are merely explaining the viewpoints of linguists who do differentiate between the two.


Otherwise: none.

In German, grammatikalisch/grammatisch is also being used arbitrarily by some, and distinctively by others.

Personally, I use it just like the word system:

  • systemic = regarding the system
  • systematic = regarding being part to the system


  • grammatic = regarding grammar
  • grammatical = regarding some item's part in a grammar

So, a grammar is grammatic, and a set of rules (as part of a grammar) may also be grammatic. But data on the other hand, like a sentence "John went(s).", may only be (un)grammatical.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.