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PhD Defence

Argument structure, alignment and auxiliaries between Latin and Romance

8 June 2016
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof. R.A.G. D'Alessandro
  • Prof. A. Ledgeway (University of Cambridge)


Romance languages all descend from Latin. However, when one observes their specific characteristics, it becomes immediately clear that variation is huge in many aspect of the language. This also holds for the distribution of auxiliaries (verbs which fulfill a grammatical function, e.g. avere ‘have’ in the Italian sentence ‘Ho visto’, ‘I have seen’) which varies a lot in different Romance languages. The main goal of this study is to understand these auxiliary patterns from a diachronic perspective; in other words to formulate a hypothesis about their origin.
After a detailed analysis of the Latin verbal system, the investigation turns onto a number of periphrases (constructions formed by an auxiliary + some other elements): perfective periphrases, related to an accomplished/resultative interpretation; possessive periphrases, expressing a possession relationship and deontic periphrases, indicating a necessity or an obligation. Particular attention is devoted to the auxiliaries occurring in these constructions and to their diachronic development from Latin, which is argued to be related to language-internal factors (i.e. not caused by the contact with other languages). Furthermore, this study illustrates that the periphrases under analysis exhibit relevant similarities as far as their Romance outcomes are concerned. This fact indicates that these developments are not isolated facts, but have to be considered as the result of the same structural changes involving the whole linguistic system. From this perspective, different Romance auxiliar y patterns can be understood as the various stages of the same diachronic process.


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