A diachronic study of valency-changing categories. Guidelines and typological parameters
Colloquium "Language typology in a diachronical perspective", 19 november 2004
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SubjectA diachronic study of case-marking in Indo-Aryan
The paper opens with a general discussion of the regrettable of the synchronic and diachronic typological studies, due, in particular, to the lesser typological variety of data available for a historical linguistic research. As a general approach for a study of a given linguistic category (or group of categories) in a diachronic typological perspective, I outline the method of family portrait, which suggests a systematic analysis of the evidence available from the earliest attested texts in an ancient language (L0) onwards up to the reflexes of the category in question in daughter languages, compared to the material from the sister languages of L0. Such a method can be successfully applied, for instance, to the study of valency-changing categories in Indo-Aryan. On the one hand, the rich evidence collected by the Indo-European comparative linguistics creates a good basis for hypotheses about the origin and possible sources of the morphological categories attested in Old Indo-Aryan and thus provides important material for a retrospective diachronic typological research. On the other hand, evidence from late Vedic and Middle Indo-Aryan texts, as well as from New Indo-Aryan languages, allows for a prospective diachronic study (how the Old Indo-Aryan categories develop into their reflexes in Middle and New Indo-Aryan). Such a study enables to uncover some fundamental tendencies in the evolution of the main valence-changing categories, such as passive (which reveals quite a stable character: we observe a certain equilibrium of the co-existing markers) and causative (the productivity of which constantly increases from the earliest texts onwards, ending up with the system including double and even triple causatives in some New Indo-Aryan languages). A brief glimpse at the reflexes of the transitivity markers and causative oppositions reconstructed for Proto-Indo-European uncovers a few basic types of development attested in daughter languages. On the one hand, several languages, including Slavic, most Germanic and Romance, replace the old syncretic marker with a new one, in the great majority of cases containing the sibilant s-, going back to the reflexive pronoun *sue-. One might call this type of evolution `syncretic¿. By contrast, some other daughter languages radically abandon the syncretic strategy of the expression of the intransitive derivations and develop special markers for several intransitive derivations, such as passive, reflexive and reciprocal. One might call this type `non-syncretic¿. The parallel development of the new non-syncretic passive and of a productive morphological causative seems to be an isogloss shared by several Eastern Indo-European languages: Indo-Iranian, Armenian and Tocharian. The paper is concluded with a tentative questionnaire for a diachronic typological study of valency-changing categories.
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