Functional specialization of Romance verb polymorphy

by Barashkov, Andrei Nikolaevich, Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY, 2009, 157 pages; 3411142


This work, which is centered in the fields of descriptive and historical linguistics, traces the regularities in the development of alternative conjugation patterns for some of the most common Romance verbs with the basic meanings of BE, GO, HAVE, MUST, STAND, and WANT. Drawing on lesser known dialectal data primarily from Balkan and Italo-Romance domains, it demonstrates that the paradigms of the said verbs often exhibit an abundance of parallel (full/reduced/augmented/hybrid) forms, which sometimes establish close associations with the verbs' diverse (lexical/modal/auxiliary/presentative) functions. This complementary distribution of formal variants is referred to as functional polymorphy.

By reconstructing the verbs' grammaticalization trajectories from Latin to modern Romance and relating their functional expansion to their formal diversification, the work provides a hitherto unavailable unified account of phonetic, morphological, and syntactic processes responsible for the rise of overt functional marking in Romance. Thus, cross-dialectally similar phonetic reinforcement and erosion, morphemic loss and exchange, syntactic compounding between verbs, prepositions, and a limited number of deictic elements, are all shown to play their part in maintaining function-oriented divides between parallel paradigms. The dissertation also explores the strength of these barriers and concludes that in the majority of cases, they remain porous enough to allow at least some interchangeability of available variants, which reaches its limit when the reduced verb forms lose their original person and number inflections.

In conclusion, the main linguistic forces behind the rise and spread of functional polymorphy are identified as token frequency, repetition, pragmatic stress, and markedness, which links the present work to contemporary linguistic debates propelled by Bybee, Heine, Lehmann, and other grammaticalization specialists.

AdviserSteven Botterill
Source TypeDissertation
Publication Number3411142

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