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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 18, 2019

Definite referential null objects in Old Hittite

A corpus study

Guglielmo Inglese, Giuseppe Rizzo and Miriam Pflugmacher


The occurrence of referential Null Objects (NOs) is a recurrent syntactic feature of ancient Indo-European languages. As previous scholars have remarked, different conditions license the occurrence of NOs in individual languages. In Hittite, the occurrence of NOs has already been observed in reference works, but a systematic account of this phenomenon is still a desideratum. In this paper, we provide a thorough corpus-based study of NOs in a corpus of Old Hittite texts. By means of quantitative data, we illustrate the frequency of NOs in various contexts, and highlight their co-occurrence with sentence connectives, chiefly with ta. We also take into account other parameters that influence the occurrence of NOs. Our analysis shows that in Hittite NOs display a connection with inanimate and less individuated referents and seem to be driven by discourse rather than by syntactic motivations. In addition, textual genre also seems to play role, and we suggest that NOs constitute a feature of the technical language of festivals and ritual texts. Finally, we sketch a possible diachronic scenario that explains the observed distribution of NOs, and argue that Old Hittite attests a phase of ongoing change whereby NOs were being progressively replaced by clitic object pronouns.

Online erschienen: 2019-09-18
Erschienen im Druck: 2019-09-18

© 2019 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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