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Breton a-marking of (internal) verbal arguments: A result of language contact?


Stark, Elisabeth; Widmer, Paul (2020). Breton a-marking of (internal) verbal arguments: A result of language contact? Linguistics, 58(3):745-766.

Abstract

We discuss a potential case of borrowing in this paper: Breton a- ‘of’, ‘from’ marking of (internal) verbal arguments, unique in Insular Celtic languages, and reminiscent of Gallo-Romance de/du- (and en-) arguments. Looking at potential Gallo-Romance parallels of three Middle Breton constructions analyzed in some detail (a with indefinite mass nominals in direct object position, a-marking of internal arguments under the scope of negation, a [allomorphs an(ez)-/ahan-] with personal pronouns for internal arguments, subjects (mainly of predicative constructions) and as expletive subjects of existential constructions), we demonstrate that even if there are some semantic parallels and one strong structural overlap (a and de under the scope of negation), the amount of divergences in morphology, syntax and semantics and the only partially fitting relative chronology of the different constructions do not allow to conclude with certainty that language-contact is an explanation of the Breton facts, which might have come into being also because of internal change (bound to restructuring of the pronominal system in Breton). More research is necessary to complete our knowledge of a-marking in Middle Breton and Modern Breton varieties and on the precise history of French en, in order to decide for one or the other explanation.

Abstract

We discuss a potential case of borrowing in this paper: Breton a- ‘of’, ‘from’ marking of (internal) verbal arguments, unique in Insular Celtic languages, and reminiscent of Gallo-Romance de/du- (and en-) arguments. Looking at potential Gallo-Romance parallels of three Middle Breton constructions analyzed in some detail (a with indefinite mass nominals in direct object position, a-marking of internal arguments under the scope of negation, a [allomorphs an(ez)-/ahan-] with personal pronouns for internal arguments, subjects (mainly of predicative constructions) and as expletive subjects of existential constructions), we demonstrate that even if there are some semantic parallels and one strong structural overlap (a and de under the scope of negation), the amount of divergences in morphology, syntax and semantics and the only partially fitting relative chronology of the different constructions do not allow to conclude with certainty that language-contact is an explanation of the Breton facts, which might have come into being also because of internal change (bound to restructuring of the pronominal system in Breton). More research is necessary to complete our knowledge of a-marking in Middle Breton and Modern Breton varieties and on the precise history of French en, in order to decide for one or the other explanation.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Comparative Linguistics
Dewey Decimal Classification:490 Other languages
890 Other literatures
410 Linguistics
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Language and Linguistics
Social Sciences & Humanities > Linguistics and Language
Uncontrolled Keywords:Linguistics and Language, Language and Linguistics
Language:English
Date:26 May 2020
Deposited On:18 Jun 2020 16:39
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 15:18
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:0024-3949
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1515/ling-2020-0089

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