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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 3. Reiterated sequences in Old Spanish. Old layer with a new typological profile


4.1 Historical continuity or coincidence of forms?

Essay 1 shed light on diachronic processes that eventually resulted in the unification of the multitude of Latin bipartite sequences by means of a single reciprocal marker unus alterum at the onset of the Romance era. One of the prominent symptoms of its increasing schematicity lies in its ability to be applied indiscriminately, i.e. both with specifically and non-specifically used NPs and irrespective of the cardinality of individuals involved in a given relation. Moreover, unlike its Latin forerunner, the new marker can go as far as to cease to be involved in anaphoric links with the remaining parts of the same text, as described in Essay 2. This constructional drift is underpinned by counts of frequency: expressions originating from unus alterum outnumber by far any other method of expressing reciprocity documented in Old Romance texts.

It has been a long-standing finding in evolutionary linguistics that shifts of the kind outlined in Essay 2 have a gradual and incremental nature. Thus, the emergence of new contexts and meanings must not be automatically equated with a definite and abrupt decline of old constructions. For example, the English going to-future, covering immediate intentional states of affairs, is known to have persisted for a long time alongside its primary directional value (Eckardt, 2011: 392–393). The acquisition of a new semantic function involved a set of very specific contexts: ‘along with movement as a component of meaning, the source of such...

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