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Passive Periphrases in the Romance Languages  

Adam Ledgeway

Romance periphrastic passives are valency-reducing constructions, involving detransitivization of the clause which is variously manifested in: (a) the defocusing of the Agent through its suppression or demotion to an oblique adjunct; (b) the topicalization and subjectization of an affected non-Agent; and (c) the stativization of the predicate through the use of dedicated verb forms consisting of an auxiliary and nonfinite verb form (viz., participle) which mark the perfective-resultative aspect of the denoted event. Standard and nonstandard Romance varieties present a wealth of periphrastic passive constructions which exhibit a great deal of microvariation, both within individual varieties and across larger areal groupings, in the various formal dimensions of use, meaning, formation, and distribution of the periphrastic passive. These parameters of varation include, among other things, some quite remarkable degrees of diachronic, diatopic, diamesic, and diastratic variation in the distribution and frequency of individual passive periphrases; the choice of passive auxiliary which, in accordance with various syntactic, semantic, and lexical factors, can variously surface as be, become, stay, have, come, go, see, make, remain/stay, want; the distribution of the defocused Agent, especially in relation to a general preference for the so-called short passive, and variation, both diachronic and synchronic, in the formal marking of the defocused Agent both within and across individual Romance varieties; the range and availability of different arguments to undergo subjectization (Theme/Patient > Recipient/Benefactive); the availability and formal properties of the impersonal-passive which, to varying degrees, may enter into competition with a number of the available passive periphrases; the formal licensing conditions operative on participle agreement, in a number of cases linked to the choice of passive auxiliary and the semantic role of the subjectized argument; and the distribution and availability of formal distinctions in the participle to mark the active–passive opposition.

Article

Case Markers in Indo-Aryan  

Miriam Butt

Indo-Aryan languages have the longest documented historical record, with the earliest attested texts going back to 1900 bce. Old Indo-Aryan (Vedic, Sanskrit) had an inflectional case-marking system where nominatives functioned as subjects. Objects could be realized via several different case markers (depending on semantic and structural factors), but not the nominative. This inflectional system was lost over the course of several centuries during Middle Indo-Aryan, resulting in just a nominative–oblique inflectional distinction. The New Indo-Aryan languages innovated case markers and developed new case-marking systems. Like in Old Indo-Aryan, case is systematically used to express semantic differences via differential object marking constructions. However, unlike in Old Indo-Aryan, many of the New Indo-Aryan languages are ergative and all allow for non-nominative subjects, most prominently for experiencer subjects. Objects, on the other hand, can now also be unmarked (nominative), usually participating in differential object marking. The case-marking patterns within New Indo-Aryan and across time have given rise to a number of debates and analyses. The most prominent of these include issues of case alignment and language change, the distribution of ergative vs. accusative vs. nominative case, and discussions of markedness and differential case marking.

Article

Southern Gallo-Romance: Occitan and Gascon  

Andres M. Kristol

Occitan, a language of high medieval literary culture, historically occupies the southern third of France. Today it is dialectalized and highly endangered, like all the regional languages of France. Its main linguistic regions are Languedocien, Provençal, Limousin, Auvergnat, Vivaro-dauphinois (Alpine Provençal) and, linguistically on the fringes of the domain, Gascon. Despite its dialectalization, its typological unity and the profound difference that separates it from Northern Galloroman (Oïl dialects, Francoprovençal) and Gallo-Italian remain clearly perceptible. Its history is characterised by several ruptures (the Crusade against the Albigensians, the French Revolution) and several attempts at "rebirth" (the Baroque period, the Felibrige movement in the second half of the 19th century, the Occitanist movement of the 20th century). Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the Occitan koinè, a literary and administrative language integrating the main dialectal characteristics of all regions, was lost and replaced by makeshift regional spellings based on the French spelling. The modern Occitanist orthography tries to overcome these divisions by coming as close as possible to the medieval, "classical" written tradition, while respecting the main regional characteristics. Being a bridge language between northern Galloroman (Oïl varieties and Francoprovençal), Italy and Iberoromania, Occitan is a relatively conservative language in terms of its phonetic evolution from the popular spoken Latin of western Romania, its morphology and syntax (absence of subject clitics in the verbal system, conservation of a fully functional simple past tense). Only Gascon, which was already considered a specific language in the Middle Ages, presents particular structures that make it unique among Romance languages (development of a system of enunciative particles).