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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter October 7, 2017

Between the historical languages and the reconstructed language

  • Serena Danesi , Cynthia A. Johnson and Jóhanna Barðdal


The “dative of agent” construction in the Indo-European languages is most likely inherited from Proto-Indo-European (Hettrich 1990). Two recent proposals (Danesi 2013; Luraghi 2016), however, claim that the construction contains no agent at all. Luraghi argues that it is a secondary development from an original beneficiary function, while Danesi maintains that the construction is indeed reconstructable. Following Danesi, we analyze the relevant data in six different Indo-European languages: Sanskrit, Avestan, Ancient Greek, Latin, Tocharian, and Lithuanian, revealing similarities at a morphosyntactic level, a semantic level, and to some extent at an etymological level. An analysis involving a modal reading of the predicate, with a dative subject and a nominative object, is better equipped to account for the particulars of the construction than the traditional agentive/passive analysis. The proposal is couched within Construction Grammar, where the basic unit of language is the construction, i. e. a form-function correspondence. As constructions are by definition units of comparanda, they can be successfully utilized in the reconstruction of a proto-construction for Proto-Indo-European.

Published Online: 2017-10-7
Published in Print: 2017-9-26

© 2017 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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