Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton October 27, 2018

This is not the same: the ambiguity of a Gothic adjective

Artūras Ratkus
From the journal Folia Linguistica

Abstract

In line with the traditional pronouncement that the weak (definite) forms of adjectives in Germanic follow the definite determiner, the Gothic weak-only adjective sama ‘the same’ (no indefinite form *sams, with the strong inflection -s, occurs) is determined (sa sama ‘the same’) in the majority of its attestations. However, contrary to the traditional description, occasionally it also occurs on its own, without a determiner. An examination of the syntactic distribution of the adjective and a comparison of the Gothic translation of the Bible with the Greek and Latin texts uncover a double semantic nature of sama. Specifically, when determined, sama conveys a definite/particularising force of ‘the same’. In the absence of the determiner, however, it conveys the semantic value of ‘one; of one kind’. The results of this investigation contribute to our understanding of the conditions that govern the distribution of strong vs. weak adjective inflections in early Germanic. In particular, they confirm the contention that the occurrence of the weak form of the adjective is not simply a matter of whether or not a definite determiner precedes it. Instead, the definite value of the adjective inflection is realised cumulatively (periphrastically), via the co-occurrence of the definite determiner and the weak adjective inflection.

Acknowledgements

I wish to thank D. Gary Miller for discussion and feedback on the manuscript of this paper. I am also grateful to Wayne Harbert for discussion of various points and for supporting my research visit at Cornell University in August 2017, where most of this research was completed. I thank three members of the editorial board of FoLH and two external anonymous readers for their detailed attention to the manuscript and constructive comments. Much as I would like to blame any errors or imperfections in this work on my above-mentioned colleagues or readers, they remain my cross to carry and mine alone, with Sebastian Pender as my Simon of Cyrene.

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Received: 2017-11-28
Revised: 2018-03-18
Accepted: 2018-03-26
Published Online: 2018-10-27
Published in Print: 2018-10-25

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