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Finite Verb Morphology in the Romance Languages  

Louise Esher, Franck Floricic, and Martin Maiden

The term finite morphology corresponds to the morphological expression of person and number and of tense, mood, and aspect in the verb. In Romance languages, these features are typically expressed “synthetically,” that is, in single word forms. These latter generally comprise a ‘root’, usually leftmost in the word, which conveys the lexical meaning of the verb, and material to the right of the root which conveys most of the grammatical meaning. But lexical and grammatical information is also characteristically ‘compressed’, or ‘conflated’ within the word, in that it can be impossible to tease apart exponents of the grammatical meanings or to extricate the expression of lexical meaning from that of grammatical meaning. The range of grammatical meanings encoded in Romance finite verb forms can vary considerably cross-linguistically. At the extremes, there are languages that have three tenses of the subjunctive, and others that have no synthetic future-tense form, and others that have two future-tense forms or no (synthetic) past-tense forms. There can also be extreme mismatches between meanings and the forms that express them: again, at the extremes, meanings may be present without formal expression, or forms may appear which correspond to no coherent meaning. Both for desinences and for patterns of root allomorphy, variation is observed with respect to the features expressed and their morphological exponence. While some categories of Latin finite synthetic verb morphology have been entirely lost, many forms are continued, with or without functional continuity. An innovation of many Romance varieties is the emergence of a new synthetic future and conditional from a periphrasis originally expressing deontic modality.