Syntax and semantics of modal predicates in Indo‐European
by Carlotta Viti (University of Zurich)
This paper discusses the syntactic variation of modal predicates between structures with a nominative primary argument and those with an oblique primary argument. In the literature, this variation is related to a change from deontic to epistemic meanings, whereby epistemicity seems to be more commonly expressed by highly grammaticalized impersonal constructions. After having shown the weakness of this relationship, I suggest a new explanation for the variation of modal predicates on the basis of diverse ancient Indo‐European languages, such as Vedic, Ancient Greek and Latin, as well as of some of their modern descendants, especially Hindi, Modern Greek, and standard and colloquial Italian. I argue that modal predicates with an oblique primary argument are favoured for functions of necessity, while modal predicates with a nominative primary argument preferably express functions of possibility. This reflects the different meanings of the lexical sources of these predicates, that is, capacity or power for predicates of possibility, and lack or obligation for predicates of necessity, which also imply different degrees of agentivity and control.
Of Lambkins and Piglets in Old English and Beyond
by Patrick V. Stiles (University College London)
It is suggested that the Old English adjectives ge–ēan and ge–cealf, each attested once in the same passage, could refer not only to pregnant livestock but also to mothers with their newborn young (as proposed by Osthoff in 1895). The twice occurring sequence gefearh sugu, which is usually taken to be a compound, is here analysed as consisting of a third such adjective used attributively before the noun; as the feminine nominative singular of a heavy‐syllabled adjective, it is endingless. This appears to be a return to an earlier view. A fourth example, ge–fol, recorded once, is also discussed. The formation of these adjectives is briefly treated, as is the PGmc noun *auna- “lamb” presupposed by the first adjective, together with its presumed relationship to Latin agnus and further cognates. Evidence for the derived class II weak verb *aunôn (reflected in OE *ēanian) in the Germanic languages is presented.
Syntactic Echoes of Pronominal Cliticization and Grammaticalization: The Case of Old High German First‐Person Plural ‐mes
by Katerina Somers (Queen Mary University of London), Mary Allison, Matthew Boutilier, Robert Howell (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
The origin of first person plural (1PL) ‘long’ forms of the type faramês/‐mes ‘(we) go’ in Old High German (OHG) is one of the most intractable problems in the history of the Germanic languages. Because these forms are confined only to OHG and have no obvious parallel elsewhere in Germanic or Indo‐European, most of the tools of the comparative method are of little use, with the result that the many accounts put forward over the past two centuries rely on a series of unlikely and ad hoc assumptions. What is more, previous work has focused on the one aspect of the problem that scholars are least likely to solve given the array of texts we presently have at our disposal, while paying little attention to what we argue is the more promising line of inquiry. That is, existing studies discuss in detail the possible morphological sources of ‐mes and their phonological development and focus little on the syntactic environments in which verbs inflected with ‐mes occur. We intend to reverse this trend through a comprehensive examination of ‐mes across the OHG corpus, with a particular focus on two of its major monuments, the OHG Tatian and Otfrid’s Evangelienbuch; this analysis shows that the syntactic distribution of ‐mes‐inflected verbs point to the suffix being diachronically and synchronically pronominal. Thus, we conclude that ‐mes must have arisen as the result of pronominal cliticization, a suggestion first put forth by Kuhn (1869) and Paul (1877).
The Expression Of Progressive Aspect In Grico: Mapping Morphosyntactic Isoglosses In An Endangered Italo‐Greek Variety
by Adam Ledgeway, Norma Schifano, and Giuseppina Silvestri (University of Cambridge)
This article investigates the expression of progressive aspect by means of verbal periphrases in the Italo‐Greek variety known as Grico, spoken in Salento (southern Italy). Building on the extremely valuable, yet out‐dated, description of Rohlfs (1977), we first present an overview of the array of different patterns brought to light by our recent fieldwork and through a survey of a selection of both early and contemporary sources which include combinations of (non‐)inflected STAND with (non‐)finite forms of a lexical verb, optionally linked by functional elements. After describing the empirical picture, we assess the degree of grammaticalization of the patterns which are still productive today, reconstructing their evolution from earlier periphrases and paying particular attention to the grammaticalization of the ambiguous element pu ‘where; from; that’. Finally, we analyse a hybrid structure currently consistently produced by semi‐speakers from different villages, which seems to instantiate a new ‘third’ option within the local repertoire. The article concludes with of a number of observations about the role of this case study for our knowledge of diatopic morphosyntactic microvariation in Grico and for the nature of language contact and language change.
Non‐Negative Word Order In Breton: Maintaining Verb‐Second
by Holly J. Kennard (University of Oxford)
This paper examines variation in Breton word order patterns in non‐negative utterances across speakers of different ages. Not only has there been some disagreement on how best to characterise unmarked word order in Breton, it has also been claimed that younger speakers of so‐called Neo‐Breton overuse subject‐initial word order under influence from French. Data from fieldwork provide a complex picture of word order variability. This seems to be driven by a number of factors, including the nature of the subject (lexical or pronominal), regional variation among older speakers, and a corresponding lack of regional features among younger speakers. Rather than overusing subject‐initial word order, the Neo‐Breton speakers tend to avoid this word order pattern when other word orders are available, such that the verb‐second pattern is being maintained.
by Nikolas Gisborne & Robert Truswell (University of Edinburgh)
The Indo-European indefinite/interrogative pronouns *k wi-/k wo- are the source of relative pronouns in several daughter languages, including varieties of Romance, Slavic, and Germanic among others. These pronouns did not head relative clauses in PIE, and so their presence in the relative clauses of the daughter languages is a result of processes of historical evolution which have recurred in different subfamilies. However, this recurring parallel process is by and large confined to Indo-European. Comrie (1998) claims instead that the interrogative relative pronoun strategy is a European areal phenomenon, because it is also found in neighbouring languages such as Hungarian and Georgian. However, there is ample evidence that endogenous innovation gives rise to interrogative relativizers in English and several other Indo-European languages. This suggests that such endogenous processes may be wholly or partly responsible for the emergence of interrogative relativizers across Indo-European. However, these processes are not the same across daughter languages: there appear to be several meandering paths from the same start point to similar endpoints.
In this talk, we establish a framework for describing both the parallel diachronic pathways and the dimensions of variation around those pathways. The broad outline of the parallel developments can be established by combining a typological perspective on Indo-European indefinite/interrogatives with results from Haspelmath (1997) on the relationship between interrogative and indefinite pronouns, from Belyaev & Haug (2014) on the typology of correlatives and conditionals, and from Haudry (1973) on the relationship between correlatives and headed relatives. At the same time, the behaviour of individual lexical items within this typological space is less predictable, accounting for the variation around this broad pathway.
This paper was read at the Annual General Meeting of the Philological Society in Oxford, Somerville College, on Saturday, 16 June, 4.15pm.
An audio recording and screencast of the paper can be found below and on the Society’s YouTube channel. A PDF version of the presentations is also available.
by Robin Meyer (University of Oxford)
The Oxford Latinitas Project
promotes the fluent speaking of Classical Latin as an essential part of scholarship (and love) of the Litterae Humaniores. This week, the project will host visitors from the Accademia “Vivarium Novum”
, Italy, for a seminar discussion of classic texts on the theme of ‘humanitas’, accompanied by musical settings of ancient poetry. Refreshments will be served, and thereafter those who wish may join us for dinner in the city centre.
The entire evening will be conducted in Latin. Active participation is of course encouraged, but those who simply wish to observe and listen are also most welcome! It will be an excellent opportunity to get a taste for this exciting way of approaching the classical works and the languages they were written in as living things.
In addition to the main event Friday evening, the Vivarienses will be taking over our regular weekly sessions: Lumen Litterarum, on Wedensday, 16 May, at 12:00 in Oriel, and the Familia Romana / Roma Aeterna sessions at Brasenose College
, Friday, 18 May, at 12:30 PM.
Please do RSVP, indicating whether you would like to join for the seminar, dinner, or both, or if you would like to come to Lumen Litterarum; no need RSVP for FR / RA.