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.
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)
Wolfson College, Oxford, and the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at the University of Oxford are pleased to host an Indo-Iranian Philology Day on Saturday, 28 April 2018, at Wolfson College.
This day celebrates the long-standing tradition of teaching Indic and Iranian languages as well as Indo-Iranian Comparative Philology at the University, and will showcase the breadth of the field as well as the fascinating connections with other areas of study.
The day begins with a lecture introducing Indo-Iranian Philology. Thereafter, the morning consists of three sets of short introductory classes in Vedic and Avestan language and texts, as well as a brief survey of Indo-Iranian and Indo-European Comparative Philology and Old Persian Cuneiform.
After a buffet lunch, four lectures by international and local scholars on a number of religious, historical, and literary topics relating to the Indo-Iranian world will round off the day.
The Indo-Iranian Philology Day, sponsored by the Lorne Thyssen Research Fund for Ancient World Topics and by the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at the University of Oxford, is open and free to all who are interested. For catering and room booking purposes, we ask that you register on our Eventbrite site, where you can also find a full programme of the day.
IE *peug′‐ /*peuk′‐ ‘to pierce’ in Celtic: Old Irish og ‘sharp point’, ogam, and uaigid ‘stitches’, Gallo‐Latin Mars Ugius, Old Welsh ‐ug and Middle Welsh ‐y ‘fist’, Middle Welsh vch ‘fox’, and ancient names like Uccius
by Patrick Sims-Williams (Aberystwyth University)
A systematic search for Celtic derivatives of IE *peug′‐ /*peuk′‐ ‘to pierce’ illustrates the extent to which Indo‐European etymological dictionaries have tended to overlook the existence of cognates in the Celtic languages.
The ‘fiver’: Germanic ‘finger’, Balto-Slavic de-numeral adjectives in *-ero- and their Indo-European background
by Marek Majer (Harvard University)
Proto-Germanic *fingraz ‘finger’ – long connected to PIE *penkʷe ‘5’, but without a convincing derivational scenario – can be interpreted as *pēnkʷ‑ró‑, a genitival R(V̄)‑ó‑ vr̥ddhi derivative to *penkʷerom ‘set of 5’. This latter form is the substantivization of *penkʷero‑ ‘5‑fold, counting 5’ – a form belonging to a series of de-numeral adjectives which, it is argued, is the single type underlying the Baltic pluralia tantum numerals (Lith. penkerì ‘5.pl.tant’) and the Slavic collectives and distributives (PSl. *pętero ‘group of 5’, *pęterъ ‘5‑fold’).
It is further hypothesized that (Post-)PIE forms like *penkʷero‑, *sweḱsero‑, *septm̥mero‑ need not rest upon false segmentation of a thematic derivative of ‘4’ (*kʷetwer‑o-), as is most commonly assumed; rather, they can be explained as simple thematic derivatives of an *‑er locative of the type *penkʷer ‘in/on/at 5’ = ‘in a group of 5’ (a close parallel of this semantic relationship is provided by Lith. trisè ‘3.loc’ = ‘in a group of 3’, or even by French à trois). The posited type *penkʷer also yields a back-formed substantive *penkʷōr ‘set of 5‑s’, a possible source of the Tocharian B distributive numerals in ‑ār (piśār ‘by 5‑s’ << *penkʷōr‑en, *penkʷōr‑i or similar), which – being athematic, cannot be explained via the standard theory starting from *kʷetwer‑o-.