Zeitschrift für Indogermanistik und historische Sprachwissenschaft / Journal of Indo-European Studies and Historical Linguistics
Ed. by Fortson, Benjamin W. / Keydana, Götz / Rieken, Elisabeth / Widmer, Paul
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In Gothic and, more generally, early Germanic, adjectives can be declined for gender, number, case and determination. The latter category refers to a morphologically realised distinction (opposition) of indefiniteness and definiteness, traditionally presented in terms of the strong (indefinite) and weak (definite) types of inflection: cf. strong ubils‘evil’ vs. weak sa ubila‘the evil (one)’. The definite (weak) form of the adjective is conventionally said to be triggered by the definite determiner (pronoun) that precedes it. By examining the evidence of variation between determined and undetermined weak forms of adjectives in the Gothic Bible, I argue that the weak inflection performs a broader range of functions than conventionally assumed. In particular, I show that the weak form of the adjective is indefinite in the presence of a classifying or identifying feature. However, it accompanies a D-word projected from a noun (which may be null) bearing a definite feature. In other words, the weak inflection is not an autonomous carrier of definiteness and is definite only by association with the determiner. The evidence of variation between Lithuanian short (indefinite) and long (definite) forms of adjectives provides compelling support for this presentation of the Gothic facts.