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Evolution in Romance Verbal Systems


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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Alexandra FIÉIS & Ana MADEIRA Modals and tense in Contemporary European Portuguese and in Old Portuguese 261


Modals and tense in Contemporary European Portuguese and in Old Portuguese1 Alexandra FIÉIS & Ana MADEIRA, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas & Centro de Linguística da Universidade Nova de Lisboa 1. Introduction The purpose of this paper is fourfold: (i) to describe the syntactic proper- ties of constructions with modal verbs dever ‘may/must’, poder ‘can/may’, ter de/que ‘have to’ and haver de ‘have to’ in Old Portuguese (OP) and in Con- temporary European Portuguese (CEP); (ii) to examine the evidence for structural changes from OP to CEP; (iii) to investigate whether structural change is dependent on semantic change; and (iv) to propose a unifying analysis of modal constructions in OP and in CEP based on their syntax. We depart from two assumptions: firstly, that functional structure can be defective and categories are not always projected (Grimshaw 2005, Thráinsson 1996), as opposed to the view that functional categories are always projected, according to a universal hierarchy (Cinque 1999); and, secondly, that functional structure in subcategorized clausal domains is determined on the basis of the selection properties of lexical items. We will show that structural changes in modal constructions from OP to CEP derived from a process of ‘degrammaticalization’ of modal verbs, with a consequent change in their lexical status. As a result, modal verbs evolved from obligatory restructuring verbs in OP to optional restructuring predicates in CEP. We will argue that the restructuring and non- restructuring infinitives found in modal constructions are assigned different syntactic representations and, moreover,...

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