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Indeed, nothing lost in the Balkans: Assessing morphosyntactic convergence in an areal context


Sonnenhauser, Barbara; Widmer, Paul (2020). Indeed, nothing lost in the Balkans: Assessing morphosyntactic convergence in an areal context. Balkanistica, 33:103-131.

Abstract

Convergence by loss is a concept that is often adduced to characterize the Balkans as a linguistic area and to substantiate the areality of particular linguistic features, developments and varieties. Time and again, it has been pointed out that however useful this concept may be for certain purposes, e.g., when descriptively stating differences between historical stages of one specific variety, it is problematic for others, in particular for comparing languages and assessing areality. In addition to implying the undisputed existence of categorial distinctions, applying this concept indiscriminately obscures the fact that its manifestations may differ substantially across features and languages. Furthermore, focusing on “loss” impedes insight into both more general and more specific processes. On the examples of case and infinitive in the standard norms of Albanian and Macedonian this article acts on these intuitions and elaborates a finer-grained approach that avoids the assumption of generally applicable categorial distinctions and the ignoring of differences below seemingly identical surface phenomena. By the decomposition of linguistic units into their constitutive morphosyntactic features it becomes possible to sketch the interaction of morphosyntactic exponents in expressing characteristic functions, such as the selection of grammatical relations or the licensing of constituency. This provides a solid empirical basis for comparing morphosyntactic patterns across languages in synchronic and diachronic respects and may be operationalized for assessing the areality of particular developments.

Abstract

Convergence by loss is a concept that is often adduced to characterize the Balkans as a linguistic area and to substantiate the areality of particular linguistic features, developments and varieties. Time and again, it has been pointed out that however useful this concept may be for certain purposes, e.g., when descriptively stating differences between historical stages of one specific variety, it is problematic for others, in particular for comparing languages and assessing areality. In addition to implying the undisputed existence of categorial distinctions, applying this concept indiscriminately obscures the fact that its manifestations may differ substantially across features and languages. Furthermore, focusing on “loss” impedes insight into both more general and more specific processes. On the examples of case and infinitive in the standard norms of Albanian and Macedonian this article acts on these intuitions and elaborates a finer-grained approach that avoids the assumption of generally applicable categorial distinctions and the ignoring of differences below seemingly identical surface phenomena. By the decomposition of linguistic units into their constitutive morphosyntactic features it becomes possible to sketch the interaction of morphosyntactic exponents in expressing characteristic functions, such as the selection of grammatical relations or the licensing of constituency. This provides a solid empirical basis for comparing morphosyntactic patterns across languages in synchronic and diachronic respects and may be operationalized for assessing the areality of particular developments.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Comparative Linguistics
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Slavonic Studies
06 Faculty of Arts > Zurich Center for Linguistics
Special Collections > Centers of Competence > Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language Evolution
08 Research Priority Programs > Language and Space
Dewey Decimal Classification:490 Other languages
890 Other literatures
410 Linguistics
Language:English
Date:2020
Deposited On:20 Apr 2020 06:11
Last Modified:01 Feb 2022 01:03
Publisher:Slavica Publishers
ISSN:0360-2206
OA Status:Green
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID100015_176378
  • : Project Title‘Ill-bred sons’, family and friends: tracing the multiple affiliations of Balkan Slavic
  • : FunderUZH
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project TitleUFSP Sprache und Raum (FFG Areal Morphology)

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