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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 4. When do constructions fail to become entrenched? An unsuccessful attempt in Old Portuguese


5.1 Discontinuous and simple reciprocal constructions: syntax – semantics correspondences

In a cross-linguistic perspective, reciprocal constructions are divided into two major groups according to the semantic properties of the predicate. Broadly speaking, in Romance languages, semantic distinctions in the functional domain of reciprocity are mirrored on the syntactic level by two linear and hierarchical templates. The first variant can accommodate both derived and inherent (or lexical) reciprocal predicates. It consists of slots for at least three elements: names denoting participants, the predicate and the marker. The names of participants are generally patterned as coordinate, hence syntactically equal, items within a unique NP. Otherwise, if arguments denote sufficiently similar entities, they are likely to be subsumed under a single plural item. That is what Heine means by ‘multiple antecedents’ in his chain-like model accounting for the emergence of REF-REC category (see Essay 2). Coordinate sequences induce arguments into being assigned the same semantic role and sharing the same syntactic relation to the predicate. If the constituent hosting them is the subject, then plural agreement on the finite verb form is obligatorily triggered. This model is known as simple reciprocal construction.

The pervasiveness of null subjects in Old Romance is likely to make this basic template undergo some changes. Yet, the solutions documented in medieval texts are flexible enough to forestall the loss of any element. This is to say that in simple reciprocal constructions, slots for all the three items mentioned are provided even if the...

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