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Evolution in Romance Verbal Systems

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Edited By Emmanuelle Labeau and Jacques Bres

The present book focuses on evolution in the Romance verbal systems. In the wake of Bybee’s and Dahl’s studies, it advocates the benefits of adopting a cross-linguistic and diachronic approach to the study of linguistic phenomena. Within the scope of the Romance family, similar cross-linguistic evolution paths are explored, as related languages at different stages of grammaticalisation may shed light on each other’s developments. A diachronic dimension also proves desirable for several reasons. First, a diachronic approach significantly enhances the explanatory power of linguistic theory by showing how a specific form came to convey a certain function. Second, change is better revealed in diachronic movement than in static synchrony. Third, meaning constantly evolves and a one-off probe will be less revealing than a sustained study through time. Finally and most importantly, similarities across languages appear more obviously in diachrony. All the chapters of this volume participate in their own way to that crosslinguistic and diachronic approach and help make it an original, focused contribution that covers all main Romance languages.

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Emmanuelle LABEAU & Jacques BRES Introduction 1

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Introduction Emmanuelle LABEAU, Aston University & Jacques BRES, Praxiling, UMR 5267 CNRS-Montpellier III For structuralism, a language constitutes a neat system of interrelated units defined by the oppositions into which they enter. Yet this is easily contra- dicted by linguistic evidence. Indeed, it is not unusual to find grammatical morphemes (or grams) from different periods and sources overlapping in their functions (Hopper 1991: 22): Within a broad functional domain, new layers are continually emerging. As this hap- pens, the older layers are not necessarily discarded, but may remain to coexist with and interact with the newer layers. The focus of this book is the verbal domain. In the wake of Bybee’s (1985, 1994) and Dahl’s (1985) studies, it advocates the benefits of adopting a cross-linguistic and diachronic approach to the study of linguistic phenom- ena. Within the scope of the Romance family, similar cross-linguistic evolu- tion paths will be explored as related languages may be at different stages of grammaticalisation, and development featured in one language may shed light on what is happening in another. For instance, an analysis of parallel corpora in French and Italian (Rebotier) that are at different stages in the evolution of perfect into past provides useful information on potential substitutes for the declining French past historic and may point towards likely developments in Italian. Similarly, a discussion of temporal phrases including the verb to have to indicate retrospective time measurement from an anchor point for Portuguese (Moia) in comparison with other languages may point towards potential...

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