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Article

Agreement in the Romance Languages  

Michele Loporcaro

This article examines agreement in the Romance languages in light of current studies and with the toolkit of linguistic typology. I will first introduce the definition of agreement assumed in the article, demonstrating its superiority to the alternatives proposed in the literature, and then move on to consider empirical data from all branches of the Romance language family, illustrating how agreement works in all its components. This will require dealing with, in order, the controllers and targets of agreement, then the morphosyntactic features that are active in the agreement rules, then the conditions that may constrain those rules, and finally the syntactic domains in which agreement takes place. In the first half of this overview, the focus will be mainly on what is common to all Romance languages, while in the second half I will concentrate on the phenomena of agreement that are remarkable, in that they are rare and/or unexpected, from a crosslinguistic perspective. It will become clear from this survey that there is no dearth of such unusual phenomena, and that the Romance language family, especially through its lesser-known nonstandard local vernaculars (which will be treated here with equal dignity to the major literary languages), holds in store considerable richness that must be taken into serious consideration by any language typologist interested in agreement.

Article

Clitic Doubling in the Romance Languages  

Cecilia Poletto and Francesco Pinzin

The phenomenon of clitic doubling is very widespread in different forms in the Romance languages. It can be defined as the double occurrence of the same constituent twice inside a single clausal unit; one of the two is represented by a clitic while the other has the properties of a whole phrase. It can target essentially all arguments of the verb and is often sensitive to the semantic/pragmatic properties (like definiteness/specificity, topicality, animacy) of the phrasal doublee so that XPs with these properties are more frequently doubled than XPs that do not have them, although there are languages in which doubling covers the whole spectrum of a given argument. A robust empirical generalization is that direct objects can be doubled only in languages that also double indirect objects, while there is no relation with subject clitic doubling.

Article

The Impact of Language Contact on North Germanic  

Steffen Höder

North Germanic has been in constant contact with other languages since prehistoric times. Early contact scenarios include the contact with Uralic languages within Scandinavia itself. Increasing contact with Central Europe from the Early Middle Ages onward entailed the spread of a wider range of linguistic innovations from (or through) Romance and West Germanic languages, while few traces of the Viking Age expansion are found in the lexicon. However, the most significant contact-related changes are due to the Late Medieval contacts between Continental Scandinavian and Latin as well as, crucially, Middle Low German. The increasing integration of Scandinavia into political, economic, and cultural networks within Europe, most notably the influence of the Hanseatic League, resulted in a high number of lexical loans and grammatical innovations but also contributed to a massive simplification of the inflectional system of Continental Scandinavian. From the Early Modern period onward, the Nordic languages went through the same type of contact (with Latin, German, French, and English in particular) as other European languages. A specifically Nordic trait is the linguistic hegemony of Danish which had a considerable impact on the development of the West Nordic languages. In addition, several waves of immigration have resulted in contact-related innovations and the emergence of a new type of urban varieties.

Article

Morphologization and the Boundary Between Morphology and Phonology in the Romance Languages  

Paul O'Neill

This article analyses, from a Romance perspective, the concept of morphologization and seeks to answer the following question: At what point does a historically proven phonological cause-and-effect relationship, whereby phonological feature X causes and determines phonological feature Y, cease to hold and the dephonologized Y element stand as a marker of some morphological distinction? The question is relevant to cases in which the original phonological conditioning element is still present and where it has disappeared. I explain that the answer to this question depends entirely on one’s conception of morphology and phonology. I argue against theories that adhere to the principle of lexical minimization and have a static conception of morphology, which is restricted to the concatenation of idiosyncratic morphemes. These theories are forced by their theoretical underpinnings, which are often ideological and not supported by robust empirical evidence, to explain morphologized phenomena as being synchronically derived by phonology. This approach comes at a huge cost: the model of phonology is endowed with powerful tools to make the analysis fit the theory and which ultimately diminishes the empirical content and plausibility of the phonological hypotheses; such approaches also constitute serious problems for language acquisition and learning. I argue for more dynamic and abstractive models of morphology, which do not impose strict restrictions on lexical storage. I ultimately view morphologization as an instance of morphologically conditioned phonology and uphold that there is no strict boundary between the phonology and morphology but both systems overlap and interact. I analyze data and phonological explanations of metaphony in nouns and verbs in Italo-Romance, plural formation in Spanish and Portuguese, the distribution of velar allomorphy in the Italian and Spanish verbs, and the distribution of verbal stress in Surmiran Romansh and Spanish. With reference to the latter, the contribution dedicates significant space exploring the extent to which the diphthong/monophthong alternation in Spanish, and different types of allomorphy in Surmiran Romansh, is a matter of phonologically conditioned allomorphy or morphologically conditioned phonology.

Article

Null Subjects in the Romance Languages  

João Costa

Some Romance languages have null subjects, that is, these languages have the capacity of leaving the subject of the sentence unexpressed. The property of having null subjects is not uniform across Romance. Different Romance languages have different types of null subjects, which has an impact on their distribution and interpretation.

Article

Receptive Multilingualism in Germanic Languages  

Charlotte Gooskens

Many languages and dialects are spoken in the Germanic language area. When speakers with different native language backgrounds want to communicate, they need to find ways to cross linguistic borders. Speakers often use English as a lingua franca, or they learn each other’s languages. However, this asks considerable time and effort. Many speakers feel insecure when speaking a foreign language, or they may not master it well enough to communicate at more than a basic level. An alternative communication mode is receptive multilingualism. This is a form of communication in which interactants speak their own language but are able to understand the language of the other well enough to communicate successfully. It is easier for most speakers to express themselves in their first language than in a foreign language. In addition, language is an important part of identity and therefore it is important for many individuals to use their native language when communicating with others. A prerequisite for receptive multilingualism is mutual intelligibility between the languages of the interactants. To be able to communicate successfully, the participants in a conversation do not need to be able to speak the language of the conversation partner, but they need a certain level of understanding of the other speaker’s language. The level of intelligibility relies on similarities between the languages of the interactants. In general, languages that are closely related are mutually intelligible to a higher extent than less closely related languages. However, receptive multilingualism can also be successful if the interactants have been exposed to or have learned each other’s languages to an extent that is sufficient to understand them. Receptive multilingualism has received a considerable amount of attention among scholars, educators, and policymakers in the Germanic language area. This is especially true in mainland Scandinavia, where this kind of communication between Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians is often put into practice. However, receptive multilingualism is also used among speakers with other Germanic language backgrounds. Even in the case of less closely related Germanic languages, such as German and Dutch or Frisian and Danish, there is often a potential for communication by means of receptive multilingualism. When speakers want to communicate in this mode, only a little exposure or instruction is sufficient to make them aware of important differences and similarities between their own language and the language of the speaker.

Article

Unspecified Human Subjects in the Romance Languages  

Pekka Posio

The term unspecified human subjects refers to syntactic constructions profiling a human subject participant whose identity is either not specified at all or is left underspecified, for instance by limiting the scope of potential referents either by choice of verb (e.g., They have raised taxes again) or by a locative expression (e.g., In Spain they eat late). Such constructions include human impersonal pronouns grammaticalized from nouns meaning ‘man’ or ‘person’ (e.g., French on, Portuguese a pessoa) or based on the numeral ‘one’ (e.g., Spanish uno), as well as impersonal (i.e., unspecified, generic, or arbitrary, depending on the theoretical framework) uses of personal pronouns and verb forms, in particular the second-person singular and the third-person plural. Unspecified human subjects present functional overlap with other human impersonal constructions such as the periphrastic passive and reflexive-based passives and impersonals (i.e., Romance se/si constructions), however differing from them in that the unspecified human argument is not the syntactic subject in these latter constructions. While it has been argued that man-impersonal constructions are either restricted or more frequent in languages with obligatory subject expression (e.g., French) and pronoun-based human impersonals are more frequent in so-called null subject languages (e.g., Italian, Spanish), some Romance languages and language varieties display both types, thus providing interesting data for the study of variation.

Article

Alignment and Word Order in the Romance Languages  

Francesco Rovai

The term “alignment” refers to the formal realization of the argument structure of the clause, that is, the ways in which the core arguments of the predicate are encoded by means of three main morphosyntactic devices: nominal case marking (morphological case, adpositions), verb marking systems (verbal agreement, pronominal affixes, auxiliaries, voice distinctions, etc.), and word order. The relative importance of these mechanisms of argument coding may considerably vary from language to language. In the Romance family, a major role is played by finite verb agreement and, to a lesser extent, auxiliary selection, participial agreement, voice distinctions, and word order, depending on the language/variety. Most typically, both transitive and intransitive subjects share the same formal coding (they control finite verb agreement and precede the verb in the basic word order) and are distinguished from direct objects (which do not control finite verb agreement and follow the verb in the basic word order). This arrangement of the argument structure is traditionally known as “nominative/accusative” alignment and can be easily identified as the main alignment of the Romance languages. Note that, with very few exceptions, nominal case marking is instead “neutral,” since no overt morphological distinction is made between subject and object arguments after the loss of the Latin case system. However, although the Romance languages can legitimately be associated with an accusative alignment, it must be borne in mind that, whatever the property selected, natural languages speak against an all-encompassing, holistic typology. A language “belongs” to an alignment type only insofar as it displays a significantly above-average frequency of clause structures with that kind of argument coding, but this does not exclude the existence of several grammatical domains that partake of different alignments. In the Romance family, minor patterns are attested that are not consistent with an accusative alignment. In part, they depend on robust crosslinguistic tendencies in the distribution of the different alignment types when they coexist in the same language. In part, they reflect phenomena of morphosyntactic realignment that can be traced back to the transition from Latin to Romance, when, alongside the dominant accusative alignment of the classical language, Late Latin developed an active alignment in some domains of the grammar—a development that has its roots in Classical and Early Latin. Today, the Romance languages preserve traces of this intermediate stage, but in large part, the signs of it have been replaced with novel accusative structures. In particular, at the level of the sentence, there emerges an accusative-aligned word order, with the preverbal position realizing the default “subject” position and the postverbal position instantiating the default “object” position.

Article

Dislocation in the Romance Languages: Syntax, Semantics, Discourse, Acquisition  

Davide Garassino

Dislocations are syntactic constructions consisting of a core sentence and a detached constituent located outside the clause, either at its left (left dislocation) or at its right (right dislocation). Typically, although not invariably, the clause hosts a resumptive element, often a pronoun, which is co-referent with the detached constituent. This separation between an extra-clausal element and the sentence led to the classification of dislocations as “non-canonical” or “marked” syntactic structures. Dislocations are attested in many language families, to the extent that they can be regarded as a language universal. However, these constructions have predominantly been examined in Germanic and Romance languages, both in formal and functional frameworks. Left and right dislocations are usually analyzed as topic-marking structures, in which the referent of the detached element has the function of sentence topic. However, specific types of topics appear to preferentially occur in either left or right dislocation. For example, left dislocations often convey topic shifts and contrastive topics, while continuous (or familiar) topics are more commonly found in right dislocations. Nonetheless, corpus-based research unveiled a more nuanced situation. Furthermore, interactionally oriented studies also suggest that exploring dislocations in spontaneous conversations is crucial for comprehending their broad functional spectrum. Thus, dislocations present many intriguing challenges to Romance linguistics, including the questions, To what extent do left and right dislocations differ syntactically and pragmatically across Romance languages? Are descriptions framed in terms of “topic establishing” and “topic promotion” truly adequate? What are the main prosodic characteristics of left and right dislocations? and What challenges do L1 and L2 learners encounter in the acquisition of these constructions?

Article

Gothic and Other East Germanic Varieties  

Stefan Schaffner

Biblical Gothic is the earliest Germanic language preserved in a longer text. The main source is represented by the Bible translation of the Visigothic Arian Christian bishop Wulfila ( born ca. 311, deceased ca. 382–383). Another few short Gothic texts are extant. For the translation of the Bible (ca. 350–380), on the basis of a Greek text, Wulfila invented his own alphabet (called Wulfila’s alphabet), using the Greek alphabet as model, with the addition of Latin and runic characters. Several manuscripts (5th/6th century; the most famous is the Uppsala Codex argenteus) contain the greater part of the New Testament. In spite of its fragmentary documentation, Gothic represents without doubt an important basis for the reconstruction of Proto-Germanic, because it offers—due to its early attestation—very archaic features in all areas of its grammar in comparison with the other old Germanic languages, the documentation of which began some centuries later. Gothic also shows recent innovations (especially the almost complete elimination of the effects of Verner’s Law within the strong verbs). The position of Gothic within the other Germanic subgroups, North and West Germanic, is still a matter of controversial discussion. Whereas older research stressed the correspondences between Gothic and North Germanic and, therefore, favored a closer relationship between them, postulating a subgroup Goto-Nordic, currently, a subgrouping into Northwest Germanic on the one hand and East Germanic (with Gothic as the most important representative) one the other hand is preferred, although this model also leaves open a couple of questions, giving impetus to further research. Other varieties of East Germanic are runic epigraphic texts (less than 10, most of them probably Gothic) from the 1st half of the 3rd century until the end of the 6th century. One of them (on the Charnay fibula, 2nd half of the 6th century) is probably of Burgundian origin. The documentation of other EGrm (East Germanic). languages is very poor and consists almost only of a few names. Two short syntagmata can probably be attributed to Vandalic. Crimean Gothic, the latest attested EGrm. language, is documented in a list of several dozen words and three lines of a cantilena. Most attested forms seem to represent a late EGrm. dialect.