The grammaticalisation of possessive person marking: a typological approach
by Marlou van Rijn (University of Amsterdam)
This study focuses on the grammaticalization of agreement markers from possessive pronouns, which has two different dimensions: loss of referentiality (function) and loss of morpho-phonological independence (form). I examine the referential potential and formal expression type of possessive person markers in a worldwide sample of 39 languages with an alienability distinction. Referential potential is measured independently of expression type by applying a new typology of person markers. First, I demonstrate that inalienable possessive marking is at least as referential and formally independent as alienable possessive marking, and often less referential and less independent. Unlike explanations in terms of frequency and iconicity, I argue that this asymmetry is essentially semantics-based: the presence of a possessive relationship is inherent to the meaning of the inalienable noun, which is therefore in less need of expressive marking than alienable nouns. Second, I show that loss of referentiality correlates with loss in form, but in a relative rather than an absolute sense: in individual languages, higher referential markers never show a greater degree of bonding with the possessee than lower referential markers. These results suggest that function and form evolve in the same direction, but need not evolve at the same pace.
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Italo-Romance Metaphony and the Tuscan Diphthongs
by Martin Maiden (University of Oxford)
The historical causes of general so-called ‘opening’ diphthongization of proto-Romance low mid vowels in stressed open syllables are an enduring matter of dispute in historical Romance phonology, the two principal positions being that the diphthongs originate in the assimilatory process of metaphony conditioned by following unstressed vowels, or that they are a matter of ‘spontaneous’ diphthongization associated with lengthening of the vowels. Most recent scholarship on the subject has tended to favour the latter view. This study, focusing on Tuscan (and thereby on Italian), reasserts the case for the former interpretation, critically reviewing older arguments and adducing new ones to show that the details of Tuscan open syllable diphtongization are significantly correlated with a metaphonic origin, despite claims to the contrary. In particular, I argue that the restriction of the generalized diphthongs to open syllables reflects the early conditions of metaphony, and that the occasional absence of the diphthongs in Tuscan systematically presupposes the historical absence of a metaphonizing environment. In conclusion, I reflect on the significance of my claims both for general Romance historical morphology and, particularly, for the place of Tuscan among the Italo-Romance dialects. The data also show how morphological analogy may play a significant role in the diffusion of the effects of sound change.
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Early Old English Foot Structure
by Nelson Goering (University of Oxford)
The variable operation of high vowel deletion in Old English has long been a point of difficulty, both descriptively – a prehistoric form like *hēafudu is attested variably as hēafudu, hēafdu, and hēafod – and theoretically. Recent work, especially by Bermúdez-Otero (2005b) and Fulk (2010), has indicated that plural forms like hēafudu are most likely original, but accounting for why the medial *u is preserved in this case form, and not in hēafde, the dative singular of the same word, has remained theoretically problematic. These difficulties arise from attempting to describe the prehistoric Old English process of high vowel deletion on the basis of later Old English phonology. At an earlier stage, the nominative-accusative plural *hēafudu could be exhaustively parsed into two precisely bimoraic feet: *[hēa][.fu.du]. The dative singular historically ended with a long vowel, *hēafudǣ, in which the medial *u could not be accommodated within a bimoraic foot: *[hēa].fu[.dǣ]. High vowel deletion is therefore best characterized as the deletion of unfooted high vowels in early Old English, initially operating while length in unstressed vowels remained contrastive. Both this quantitative system and the preference for precisely bimoraic units receive support from Kaluza’s law, an archaic metrical phenomenon in Beowulf which prohibits resolution in secondary metrical ictus if the resulting unit would have more than two moras, and which is sensitive to prehistoric length distinctions. This original system was obscured, linguistically and metrically, in later Old English by the shortening of unstressed long vowels, triggering various morphological reanalyses of the effects of high vowel deletion. A review of these changes suggests that the system of metrical phonology described here provides a more plausible starting point for the reworkings that produced the forms found in later Old English than do alternative accounts such as those of Campbell (1983) or Ringe (2002).
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Members of the Philological Society heard a talk by Prof. Bill Kretzschmar (University of Georgia), entitled “The Complex Adaptive System of English: Text Analysis, Lexicogrammar, and Variation”.
Axial parts, phi-features and degrammaticalization: the Case of Italian presso/pressi in diachrony
by Ludovico Franco (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
In this paper, I will provide a possible syntactic characterization of (a subset) of so-called degrammaticalization processes, based on the case of the diachronic evolution of presso/pressi (near/at, in) in Italian. Moreover, with an empirical study on the Opera del Vocabolario Italiano (OVI) corpus, I will support Svenonius’s idea of Axial Part as an independent category in the lexicon (and not a mere spatial subset of relational nouns), providing a new kind of evidence i.e. of the diachronic type, to this claim.
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