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Linguistics and English Language

Archaism and innovation in the linguistic history of Europe

Project coordinators

  • Professor Richard Hogg (Department of English and American Studies)
  • Professor Nigel Vincent (Department of Linguistics)

Research and project management

  • (Romance)
  • Dr Thórhallur Eythórsson (Germanic)

The project

The project Archaism and innovation in the linguistic history of Europe is the result of an award made jointly to Professor Richard Hogg and Professor Nigel Vincent, under the aegis of the British Academy Institutional Fellowship Scheme. The focus of the project is the historically oriented cross-family comparison of the syntactic development of the languages of Europe. More precisely, the following are our principal objectives:

  • The comparative study of argument marking and changes therein;
  • The establishment of cross-linguistic (and cross-dialectal) correlations and directionality patterns;
  • The analysis of linguistic archaism and innovation in Europe and of the possible effects of geographical and social context on change;
  • A sub-project on four island languages (Sicilian, Sardinian, Icelandic and Faroese) is also under way.

Work in progress

  • Bentley, D. & T. Eythórsson. 2002. Auxiliary selection and the semantics of unaccusatives. Ms. The University of Manchester.
  • Bentley, D. 2001. On `neÂ-cliticisation. Ms. The University of Manchester.
  • Bentley, D. 2002. Definiteness effects: evidence from Sardinian. Ms. The University of Manchester.

Project publications

  • Bentley, D. (1997) Language and dialect in Modern Sicily. The Italianist 17:204-230.
  • Bentley, D. (1998) Modalità e tempo in siciliano: un'analisi diacronica dell'espressione del futuro. Vox Romanica 57:117-137.
  • Bentley, D. (1999) On the origin of Sardinian àere a plus infinitive. Medioevo Romanzo XXIII/III: 321-358.
  • Bentley, D. (2000) Semantica e sintassi nello sviluppo dei costrutti condizionali: il caso del siciliano. Revue Romane 35/2: 163-176.
  • Bentley, D. (2000) I costrutti condizionali in siciliano: un'analisi diacronica. Revue Romane 35/1:3-20.
  • Bentley, D. (2000) Metonymy and metaphor in the evolution of modal verbs: evidence from Italo-Romance. Belgian Journal of Linguistics 14: 1-22.
  • Bentley, D. (2001) Standard e dialetto nella Sicilia odierna. In M. Lamberti and F. Bizzoni (eds) La Italia del siglo XX. IV jornadas internacionales de estudios italianos. Cátedra Extraordinaria Italo Calvino, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, pp. 347-363.
  • Bentley, D. (2001) Proprietà sintattiche dell'oggetto diretto in siciliano antico: la distribuzione della particella partitiva(in)di. Bollettino del Centro di Studi Filologici e Linguistici Siciliani 19:101-119.
  • Bentley, D. (in press) Habeo e infinito in italo-romanzo: il caso di aviri più particella in siciliano antico. To appear inAbruzzo. Numero speciale in onore di Giovanni Alessio.
  • Bentley, D. and T. Eythórsson (2001) Alternation according to person in Italo-Romance. In L. Brinton (ed.) Historical Linguistics 1999. Proceedings of the XIV International Conference on Historical Linguistics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 9-13August 1999. Amsterdam: Benjamins, pp. 63-74.
  • Eythórsson, T. (1999a) Uppruni sagnfærslu í germönskum málum" (The origins of verb movement in Germanic). Íslenskt mál19-20:133-180.
  • Eythórsson, T. (1999b) The inscription on the Reistad stone: The earliest Landnámabók. Pforzen und Langacker. Neue Arbeiten zu Runeninschriften, ed. Alfred Bammbesberger. Eichstätt, pp. 189-202.
  • Eythórsson, T. (2001a) The syntax of verbs in Early Runic. Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax 67:1-55.
  • Eythórsson, T. (2001b) Fall á fallanda fæti? Um breytingar á frumlagsfalli í íslensku. (Case a lost case? On changes in subject case in Icelandic.) Íslenskt mál 22:249-268.
  • Eythórsson, T. (2001c) Dative vs. Nominative: Changes in quirky subjects in Icelandic. Proceedings of the 18th Scandinavian Conference of Linguistics, vol. 2, ed. Arthur Holmer et al., Lund: Lund University, pp. 37-52.
  • Eythórsson, T. (in press) Changes in subject case marking in Icelandic In D. Lightfoot (ed.) Syntactic effects of morphological change. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Eythórsson, T. & Johanna Barddal (2001) The evolution of oblique subjects in Scandinavian. Working Papers in Scandinavian Syntax 67:57-83.
  • Vincent, N. (1999) The evolution of c-structure: prepositions and PPs from Indo-European to Romance. Linguistics37.1111-1153.
  • Vincent, N. (2001) LFG as a model of syntactic change. In Miriam Butt & Tracy Holloway King (eds) Time over Matter: Diachronic Perspectives on Morphosyntax. Stanford, Ca: Center for the Study of Language and Information, pp. 1-42.
  • Vincent, N.B. and D. Bentley (2001) On the demise of the Latin future periphrasis in -urus + esse. In C. Moussy (ed.) De Lingva Latina Novae Quaestiones. Actes du Xe Colloque International de Linguistique Latine, Paris, Université Paris IV, 19-23 April 1999. Bibliothèque d'Etudes Classiques. Paris: Editions Peeters, pp. 145-158.

Further information

One of our initial objectives was the comparative analysis of the 'have' / 'be' alternation in some Romance and Germanic languages. In this sense, a unique mixture of archaism and innovation is found in Italy where the sister languages derived from Latin variously exhibit two types of alignment: whilst the role of linear order corresponds to the situation found in nominative languages, the distribution of the perfective auxiliary reveals traces of an active/inactive system. Notably, the distribution of the perfective auxiliaries derived from Latin HABERE and ESSE varies considerably across the peninsula and the islands.

Delia Bentley and Thórhallur Eythórsson have presented the results of comparative work on auxiliary distribution in Germanic and Romance at the meetings of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (September 1998, April 2000) and at the International Historical Linguistics Conference (Vancouver B.C., August 1999). Alternation according to person in the dialects of Castelli Romani (Lazio) is presently being analysed by Dott.ssa Stefania Tufi in her Doctoral Thesis.

In her most recent work Delia Bentley has adopted the framework of Role and Reference Grammar and worked on (i) 'ne'-cliticisation in Italian and Sicilian and on (ii) locatives, existentials, and definiteness effects in Sardinian.

Diachronic research has been conducted on the Romance future. On the basis of cross-dialectal work on Italo-Romance, Delia Bentley and Nigel Vincent have argued for a polygenetic account of the periphrases derived from Latin HABERE (plus particle) and infinitive. In so doing, they have rejected the traditional and well-established analysis which regards these structures as free variants of a single construction. This innovative view of the Romance future was presented at the V Congress of the International Society of Italian Linguistics and Philology (Catania, October 1998) in a paper entitled "L'evoluzione di habere e infinito nell'italo romanzo". In addition, Delia Bentley has investigated the origin of the Sardinian future periphrasis áere a + infinitive.

The results of corpus analysis have led her to challenge the idea that this construction derives from the older one áere + infinitive by insertion of a particle Other issues concerning the evolution of HABERE (plus particle) and infinitive are presently under scrutiny within the project. Lastly, Nigel Vincent and Delia Bentley have studied the disappearance of the Latin future in - urus + esse (cf. "The demise of the Latin future periphrasis in -urus + esse", Proceedings of the X International Colloquium on Latin, Paris, April 1999).