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The syntax-prosody mapping in a dead language, the case of Late Latin BE-periphrases

  • Lieven Danckaert (CNRS/Université de Lille 3)
Thursday 10 November 2016
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 4
2311 BZ Leiden


In this talk, I will be concerned with certain aspects of Latin word order and in particular the alternation between the word order patterns ‘lexical verb - auxiliary’ and ‘auxiliary - lexical verb’. As is well known, in the present day Romance languages only the latter pattern is available. My starting point is the observation that in the particular case of periphrastic expressions with a BE-auxiliary and a past participle, Late Latin has a remarkably strong and uniform preference for the head-final order ‘PaPa - Aux’. In contrast, in the case of combinations of a modal verb and a dependent infinitive, we do in fact observe the expected rise of the head-initial pattern. In order to explain the unexpected behavior of BE-periphrases, I will develop an account which characterizes the Late Latin BE-auxiliary as a prosodically weak element, which is subject to a specific PF-condition which limits its positional freedom. Crucial evidence to support this analysis comes from prose rhythm, as well as from novel corpus data on the interaction between verb placement and negation.

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