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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 2. Old French li uns l’autre, a multi-faceted reciprocal marker


3.1 One general construction – many detailed problems

In the present essay two evolutionary aspects of Old French (OF) reciprocal sequences are going to be analysed. The central problem in each of them is tied to the presence of the marker originating from the Latin unus alterum. The first study attempts to reconstruct the mechanisms responsible for the emergence of cumulative reciprocal sequences. They are peculiar in that the l’un l’autre cluster appears alongside the erstwhile reflexive pronoun. The point is that the present day French pattern Elles s’embrassèrent l’une l’autre sur la joue ‘They kissed each other on the cheeks’ paved its way only gradually. In medieval texts, this propositional content used to be expressed either as Elles s’embrassèrent sur la joue or L’une a embrassé l’autre sur la joue. The French material is thought to lead to a better understanding of the origin of such form-meaning linkages. Compared to reciprocal constructions evidenced in the remaining Romance languages of that period (see Old Spanish examples in 1a-c retrieved from the, abbrev. CE), the attestations of two etymologically and functionally different items brought together in a unique sentence are relatively tardy in French.

(1a) … el lobo & la oueja comerian & beuerian de so vno & non se farian mal el vno al otro (Castigos e documentos de Sancho IV, 13th century; CE) ‘The wolf and the sheep will eat and drink from one piece of ware and will avoid causing harm...

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