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The Entrenchment of the «unus alterum» Pattern

Four Essays on Latin and Old Romance Reciprocal Constructions


Mikołaj Nkollo

In this book, the author presents that although various Old Romance grammars can be traced back to the common Latin ancestor, the functional domain of reciprocity shows divergent paths of development. In this regard, each of the languages have worked up their unique solutions, with grammatical and semantic mechanisms underlying their diversity.

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Essay 1. Fluctuations in the Latin reciprocal system


2.1 Reiterated clusters

The expression of reciprocity in Old Romance languages relies prevailingly on sequences that originate from unus alterum. The same structural template, where two elements are juxtaposed, is documented on an even larger scale at various stages in the history of Latin. Still, unlike markers in Romance medieval vernaculars where two different items belonging to one series are aligned (thus producing a contrast; see Introduction, ft. 1), reciprocal sequences in Latin are by default based on reiterations: two inflectional forms of a single noun or pronoun are placed adjacently. One of the two neighbouring forms is coerced into taking a particular case value by another element of the sentence. In the first of the examples below, legere ‘choose, appoint’ must have an accusative form as its complement.

The aim of the present essay is to answer the following two questions: 1) how were reiterations replaced with contrast ? and 2) what prompted the reduction of a series of semantically specialized bipartite markers and the emergence of one universal construction? The hypothesis which is going to be advocated here has mainly a chronological dimension: the reanalysis of the syntactic profile of reciprocal clusters dates back to as early as the Latin period itself. If in classical writings reiterations outnumber by far unus alterum, in late Latin texts a serious growth of the latter marker is evidenced, obviously at the expense of polyptotic structures. As a result, in the first documents compiled in Romance vernaculars,...

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