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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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1.1 Aims and scope. Diachronic shifts in the marking of reciprocity

The aims pursued in the present monograph relate to the emergence and further development of reciprocal constructions with the sequence descending from unus alterum in Old Romance languages. The fortunes of this expression, prior to the rise of medieval neo-Latin vernaculars, is quite intriguing. As a matter of fact, in spite of being abundantly documented in late Latin texts, unus alterum seems to have been rather peripheral in previous periods of the history of the Latin language. Compared to the multitude of specialized bipartite markers (i.e. those that cannot be used interchangeably), the number of its attestations in classical writings is fairly small. Yet, right from the outset of the Romance era, instead of relying on semantically well-defined reiterated expressions (see 1a-b below), reciprocity is nearly universally encoded by linguistic signs originating from unus alterum and by the former reflexive pronoun < se (acc./abl.). Thus, an ancillary concern, which helps shed light on properly Romance matters, is the reconstruction of how this quantitative impoverishment actually came about. Latin data, extensively dealt with in Essay 1, is expected to explain why an erstwhile marginal expression went ahead of its rivals, reputedly more widespread.

(1a) Omnium namque malorum in Sergio Verginioque causas esse; nec id accusatorem magis arguere quam fateri reos, qui noxii ambo alter in alterum causam conferant, fugam Sergi Verginius, Sergius proditionem increpans Vergini Livy UC 5, 11 (TLL) ‘For that the sources...

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