Morphosyntactic variation is a central place where language change happens. Although some difficulties with the transposition of the concept of 'free variation' from phonology to grammar and lexis have to be taken into account, the distinction between structural variants and oppositions is useful in the domains of descriptive and diachronic linguistics. The paper concentrates on variants of morphosyntactic markers - cases and prepositions. Variable encodings of constituents by morphological case or preposition + case marker sometimes reflect relative positions on a scale from center to periphery, which correlates functional hierarchies in the constituent structure and typical formal markers by iconic relations. A special case of morphosyntactic variation is connected with certain bitransitive verbs: one constituent can be promoted to a more central position in the constituent hierarchy, another constituent is demoted, while the verb remains unchanged and does not render contrasts of grammatical voice. The choice between these alternating constituent hierarchies depends on the pragmatic intention of the speaker. It can be shown, nevertheless, that in Polish, the number of bitransitive verbs with alternating constituent hierarchies has been reduced (compared to Russian). The effect is a sharpening of the formal contrasts between neighbouring functional concepts.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.