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Procliticization as a residual of second positioning: evidence from West Iranian languages

Masoud Mohammadirad ORCID logo EMAIL logo and Pollet Samvelian ORCID logo
From the journal Folia Linguistica


Person clitics show proclitic attachment in some West Iranian languages. Nevertheless, most of the literature has continued to focus on enclitics. This paper provides evidence that a good number of modern languages have developed proclitics, presumably from the middle Iranian period onward. Using synchronic data from modern languages gathered in the field, and contrasting it with the Middle Iranian period and current clausal second-position clitic systems, we develop some hypotheses regarding the rise of proclitics in modern languages. We argue that proclitic attachment has resulted from the reanalysis and/or the loss of clause-initial clitic hosting particles of the Middle Iranian period, and the actualization of the stray clitic as a proclitic on some host to the right. This trajectory from second position enclitics to proclitics, which is also attested in Old Romance and Uto-Aztecan, is argued to have been triggered by head attraction and rightward drift of clitics from clause-second position toward the verb in modern languages, giving rise to VP-based and Verb-based cliticization systems.

Corresponding author: Masoud Mohammadirad, University of Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, Paris, France, E-mail:


We thank Geoffrey Haig for his comments on the draft version of the article. We also express our gratitude to the two anonymous reviewers for their comments, which led to significant improvement of the paper. We are grateful to Emmanuel Giraudet from the research group ‘Centre de recherche sur le Monde Iranien’ for the creation of maps. Any remaining shortcomings remains our own. Masoud Mohammadirad’s work was enabled by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 665850.


In Table 7 some information is provided about each language investigated in this paper. Due to limitations of space only the number of spoken narratives have been provided in the dataset column (cf. Mohammadirad 2020: Ch. 1 for metadata). Note that as there is no reliable census on language communities it is hard to provide realistic data for the number of speakers, given also the fact that a considerable portion of many language communities grow with little knowledge of native languages. Therefore, for some languages the number of speakers can alternatively be interpreted as the population size.

Table 7:

General information on investigated languages.

Language Size of dataset Approximate n. of speakers Location Further information
Baneh Central Kurdish 4 spoken narratives 100,000 35.99534, 45.88214 cf. Sorani (<Central Kurdish) in Glottolog
Southern Central Kurdish 3 spoken narratives 800,000 35.31271, 46.99745 cf. Sine’i (<Central Kurdish) in Glottolog
Bijar Southern Kurdish 4 spoken narratives 30,000 35.87820, 47.59137 cf. Garruci (<Southern Kurdish) in Glottolog
Gorani Takht 4 spoken narratives 5,000 35.25539, 46.25510 cf. Hawraman-i Taxt (<Gurani) in Glottolog
Gorani Qal’eh 3 spoken narratives 2000 35.13358, 47.80199 Not listed in Glottolog
Laki Kakevandi 4 spoken narratives 100,000 34.26456, 47.61051 cf. Laki in Glottolog
Laki Harsini 7 spoken narratives 20,000 34.27218, 47.58576 cf. Belelli (2016); Lakic Southern Kurdish in Glottolog
Chali (Shali) 3 spoken narratives 15,000 35.89884, 49.76503 cf. Southern Tatic (<Tatic) in Glottolog
Takestani 1 spoken narrative 50,000 36.07556, 49.69086 cf. Takestani (<Ramand-Karaj < Tatic) in Glottolog
Semnani 2 spoken narratives 100,000 35.59008, 53.37433 cf. Semnani-Biyabuneki in Glottolog
Central Taleshi 1 spoken narrative 200,000 37.79848, 48.90740 cf. Central Talyshi in Glottolog
Delijani 2 spoken narratives 20,000 33.99254, 50.68019 cf. Delijani (<Soic) in Glottolog
Khansari 2 spoken narratives 15,000 33.29052, 50.31922 cf. Khunsaric in Glottolog
Meymei 3 spoken narratives 6,000 33.44972, 51.16804 cf. Mayma’i (<Soic) in Glottolog
Abuzeydabadi 2 spoken narratives 6,000 33.89916, 51.76530 cf. Abuzeydabadi (<Soic) in Glottolog
Badrudi 4 spoken narratives 14,000 33.69181, 52.00395 cf. Badrudi (<Natanzic) in Glottolog
Nikabad-Jondun 5 spoken narratives 6,000 32.30685, 52.20724 cf. Gazic in Glottolog
Naeini 2 spoken narratives 20,000 32.86043, 53.08112 cf. Nayini (<Nayinic) in Glottolog
Yazdi Zoroastrian 8 spoken narratives 10,000 31.88138, 54.37355 cf. Gabri (<Zoroastrian Yazdi) in Glottolog
Sivandi 4 spoken narratives 3,000 30.08182, 52.92264 cf. Sivandi (<Central Iran Kermanic) in Glottolog
Koroshi 7 spoken narratives 10,000 29.52698, 52.66519 cf. Nourzaei et al. (2015), Balochic in Glottolog
Luri-type languages 5 spoken narratives 2–3 million 33.50349, 49.05946 cf. Amān Allāhī Bahārvand and Thackston (1986), Luric in Glottolog
Behbahani 6 spoken narratives 60,000 30.59746, 50.23304 not listed in Glottolog
Nowdani 2 spoken narratives 3,000 29.79956, 51.68829 not listed in Glottolog
Davani 5 spoken narratives 600 29.70200, 51.67361 cf. Davani (<Fars dialects) in Glottolog
Delvari 2 spoken narratives 4,000 28.76228, 51.06716 not listed in Glottolog
Dashti 3 spoken narratives 40,000 28.34110, 51.52374 not listed in Glottolog
Lari 4 spoken narratives 50,000 27.67415, 54.32065 cf. Lari (<Larestani) in Glottolog
Bastaki 3 spoken narratives 10,000 27.19754, 54.36614 cf. Bastak (<Larestani) in Glottolog
Bandari 3 spoken narratives 200,000 27.18477, 56.25640 not listed in Glottolog
Minabi 3 spoken narratives 70,000 27.12748, 57.07667 not listed in Glottolog


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Received: 2020-02-14
Accepted: 2021-04-12
Published Online: 2021-10-14
Published in Print: 2021-11-25

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