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Empirical investigations of (morpho)syntactic changes

Abstract

Since (Aronoff, Mark. 1994. Morphology by itself. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press), the disparate morphosyntactic roles that past participle forms have in Latin (and Italian) morphology have played a central role in arguing for morphomic approaches. In this article, I will propose an alternative analysis of the special behavior of these participle forms in Distributed Morphology (DM, Halle Morris, & Alec Marantz. 1993. Distributed morphology and the pieces of inflection. In Kenneth Hale & Samuel Jay Keyser (eds.), The view from building 20: Essays in linguistics in honor of Sylvain Bromberger, 111–176. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.). In particular, I will propose that morphological spell-out, as a first stage of the PF derivation, includes morphological repairs triggered by abstract “morphomic” constraints. These repairs can insert “ornamental” pieces – structures that are not motivated syntactically or semantically but only morphologically – to mediate the interface between abstract syntactico-semantic structures and surface PF construction. I will demonstrate the role that these repairs play in accounting for the surface convergence between perfect and passive participle forms, and adjectival stative ones, and for the appearance of past participles in nominalizations. The article ends with an analysis of Latin past participle morphology focusing on its historical development. The first part of this analysis deals with the development of Latin verbal structure from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) and in particular with the development of “ornamental” thematic vowels. It then turns to a brief investigation of the historical development of the Latin past participle exponent /-t-/ from PIE adjectival suffix *-tó-, and of the PIE agentive and action/result nominal suffixes *-tér/tor, *-ti-, *-tu, *-men-(to)-. This will lead to a discussion of Latin nominalizations, the supine and the future participle and a possible explanation of why they contain participial morphology.

Abstract

Elastic s+C is the idea that s+C clusters are heterosyllabic by default in all languages, and that some repair will occur in case, pending on language-specific circumstances, a heterosyllabic parse is illegal (preceding long vowel, preceding coda, beginning of the word). The repair at hand is the branching of the s on the following empty nucleus. This generalization is derived from the behaviour of left-moving yod in the diachronic evolution from Latin to French. The floating yod (here coming from palatalization k+i,e > j+ʦ) anchors as a coda if the preceding syllable is open (placēre > plaisir), but is lost in case it is closed (cancellāre > chanceler), except when the syllable-final C is s (cresc(e)re > croistre (mod. croître)). We know independently that intervocalic s+C clusters are regular coda clusters: they block diphthongization (testa > teste (mod. tête)). Hence s is elastic: s+C is a regular coda cluster unless there is a demand for s to vacate its coda position. It is shown that among all syllabic identities for s+C that are entertained in the literature only one is compatible with this pattern: in CsC clusters, i.e. in absence of a preceding vowel, s branches on the following empty nucleus, i.e. the one that separates it from the following C. This is confirmed by an independent pattern: the middle consonant of CCC clusters is lost unless it is s (CsC), but is regularly dropped in sCC clusters. Here as well s+C is a regular coda-onset cluster when preceded by a vowel (sCC), but s elastically becomes a non-coda when preceded by a consonant (CsC). This empirical generalization appears to be an unprecedented finding: s in s+C is a coda when preceded by a vowel, but a (branching) non-coda when not preceded by a vowel. It is shown that it may solve a good deal of the notoriously mysterious behaviour of s+C clusters as such, i.e. in other languages and in synchronic analysis. Word-initially s+C is not followed by a vowel and therefore a non-coda, thus accounting for the typical cross-linguistic pattern whereby s+C is exceptional word-initially, but not word-internally (where it is followed by a vowel). Also, the branching analysis solves the mysterious fact that s only shows exceptional behaviour when it is followed by a consonant: there is no empty nucleus it could branch on when followed by a vowel.

Abstract

This paper traces the development of so-called Exceptional Case Marking (ECM) under perception, permissive and causative verbs in Romance. Synchronically, we can observe various patterns in the distribution of ECM complements under these verbs. In Portuguese and Spanish, ECM is often possible under all permissive and causative verbs, whereas in French, Catalan and Italian it is usually restricted to perception and permissive verbs. A detail that has not been much discussed is the fact that, for many speakers, ECM with a given verb is often restricted to contexts in which the embedded ‘subject’ is a clitic. Some speakers of Modern French display this pattern with the verb faire ‘make’, for example (Abeillé, Anne, Danièle Godard & Philip Miller. 1997. Les causatives en français : Un cas de compétition syntaxique. Langue Française 115. 62–74. https://doi.org/10.3406/lfr.1997.6222). In this paper, I claim that laisser ‘let’ probably also displayed this pattern in Middle French. In Old French, however, what appears to be the opposite pattern is observed. Following (Pearce, Elizabeth. 1990. Parameters in Old French syntax: Infinitival complements. Dordrecht: Kluwer), I attribute this to the morphological variability of dative case in Old French. I propose a case-based analysis of the clitic ECM pattern, whereby ECM complements in Romance are phases unlike clause union complements (see Sheehan, Michelle & Sonia Cyrino. 2018. Why do some ECM verbs resist passivisation? A phase-based explanation. In Sherry Hucklebridge & Max Nelson (eds.), Proceedings of NELS 48 (vol 3), 81–90. University of Massachusetts). Where such complements are embedded under light verbs, the Phase Impenetrability Condition (Chomsky, Noam. 2001. Derivation by phase. In Michael Kenstowicz (ed.), Ken hale: A life in language, 1–52. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) prevents accusative case from being assigned to the lower subject except in instances of cliticization. When the matrix verb is reanalysed as a full verb, however, v becomes the case-assigning head and so ECM becomes generally available, regardless of the clitic/non-clitic status of the causee.

Abstract

This paper documents the steps and analyses the processes by which a concrete change of location unaccusative construction based on a venitive verb grammaticalizes in Romanian as a modal construction exhibiting a variety of desiderative meanings, the most prominent of which is the urge-type of desiderative meaning. This diachronic change is atypical: the venitive verb underwent desemanticization but does not show any detectable morphophonological erosion or decategorialization. Furthermore, the desiderative meaning arises only when the venitive verb is accompanied by a dative clitic (originally, a goal of motion) and a subjunctive CP.

Abstract

I analyze the Romance descendants of Latin aliquis ‘some or other’, which are characterized by a complex pattern of variation in the contemporary Romance languages. I account for this variation in terms of diverging diachronic paths, tracing their determinants back to a process taking place between Classical and late Latin. Classical Latin only used aliquis as an epistemic indefinite, expressing ignorance about the identity of the referent. In late Latin a distributional extension is observed, and aliquis starts to be consistently found as an NPI in negative contexts. This multiplicity of uses is transmitted to medieval Romance and represents the prerequisite for contemporary variation. In their further history, some languages continue only one of the two uses. Other languages maintain both, but the meaning contrast comes to be related to a word-order difference. I analyze this difference as a syntactic DP-internal inversion operation, motivated by focus and connected to polarity sensitivity. Significantly, the diachronic path of the Romance descendants of aliquis contributes to our understanding of general mechanisms of semantic change, since it instantiates a cline of development that can be related to varying (hence, diachronically changing) constraints on quantificational domains.

Abstract

The aim of this contribution is to discuss three possible theoretical interpretations of grammaticalised structures in present-day Italo-Romance varieties. In particular, we discuss and analyse three diachronic case studies in relation to the generative view of grammaticalisation. The first case-study revolves around the expression of future tense and modality. This is discussed in the light of the assumption according to which grammaticalised elements result from merging elements in higher positions than their original merge positions within the lexical domain, giving rise to the upward directionality of the grammaticalisation process within the clause (Roberts, Ian G. and Anna Roussou, 2003, Syntactic change: A minimalist approach to grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). The second case study challenges this view, by discussing irrealis complementisers as a case of a downward pathway of grammaticalization at the CP level. For our third case study, namely the development of (discontinuous) demonstrative structures from Latin to Romance, the rich Italo-Romance empirical evidence is analysed through the lens of a parametric account (Longobardi, Giuseppe, Cristina Guardiano, Giuseppina Silvestri, Alessio Boattini, and Andrea Ceolin, 2013, Toward a syntactic phylogeny of modern Indo-European languages, Journal of Historical Linguistics 3(1), 122-152), in order to capture the role of the relevant semantic and syntactic features within the fine-grained architecture of the DP. It will be observed that the diachronic development of some functional categories in (Italo-)Romance results from cyclic pathways of grammaticalisation, as the same category might cyclically change from more synthetic to more analytic, and vice-versa. Moreover, it will also be shown how the two theoretical approaches adopted, i.e. the cartographic model (adopted in Roberts, Ian G. and Anna Roussou, 2003. Syntactic change: A minimalist approach to grammaticalization, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), and the parametric accounts (Longobardi, Giuseppe, Cristina Guardiano, Giuseppina Silvestri, Alessio Boattini and Andrea Ceolin, 2013, Toward a syntactic phylogeny of modern Indo-European languages, Journal of Historical Linguistics 3(1), 122-152), are able to provide a principled explanation of the structural correlates of grammaticalisation at the sentential, clausal and nominal level of investigation.

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Abstract

The Council of Chalcedon was a multilingual event, but its multilingual situation was unbalanced. Most attendees spoke Greek, which was de facto the official language of the council. The Roman delegates spoke in Latin, presumably for symbolic reasons, and their statements were translated simultaneously into Greek. The difference of language was no apparent obstacle to communication; this can be seen best in the third session, which was efficiently chaired by the chief of the Roman delegation. Although the translations recorded in the Acts are generally reliable, there are some differences between the Latin and Greek versions reflecting political differences between the Sees of Rome and Constantinople. Languages other than Greek and Latin were spoken, as for example Syriac, but their role was marginal. The original minutes of the Council of Chalcedon reflected the “unbalanced” multilingualism of the assembly; they were mostly in Greek but preserved some parts in Latin. With time, and with Latin fading in the East, they lost the parts in Latin and became unilingual; at the same time, the Greek Acts were translated into Latin for a Latin-speaking western audience.