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Relative Clauses in Asia Minor Greek

  • Metin Bağrıaçık (Ghent University)
Thursday 8 December 2016
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 4
2311 BZ Leiden


In this talk I will provide a synchronic and a diachronic account of the micro-variation in headed relative clause (HRC) formation strategies within the Asia Minor Greek dialects (dialects which were spoken in the regions known as Cappadocia, Pharasa and Pontus in modern-day Turkey until 1923, but are now spoken in various locations in Greece). In all the three dialects, HRCs are finite structures. In Cappadocian and (certain sub-varieties of Pontic) HRCs are obligatorily prenominal and are introduced by morphemes identical with the definite neuter singular/plural articles (‘to/ta’– dubbed as relative articles) which agree with the number feature on the head. In Pharasiot today, HRCs, which are –similar to Cappadocian and Pontic – finite, can nevertheless be both prenominal and postnominal without any semantic or pragmatic difference between the two, and the latter has been available only for the last four decades. Moreover, in this variety, both types of HRCs are introduced by a unique morpheme near identical in form to the relative articles of the other two dialects, ‘tu’.

I will first reveal that synchronically there is nothing as ‘relative articles’ in any of the dialects, but HRCs are simply subject to the phenomenon of ‘Obligatory Definiteness Spread’ according to which all (strictly) prenominal adjectival, numeral and relative modifiers have to be marked by overt neuter articles if the head they modify is definite. This is corroborated by the fact that there is a definiteness restriction on the head in HRCs in Cappadocian and Pontic. In Pharasiot, however, the head can be both definite or indefinite, which suggests that ‘tu’ is not an article, nor it is a relative article. Then, I will trace the origins of HRCs in Cappadocian/Pontic and Pharasiot in Early Medieval Greek and reveal that HRCs in Cappadocian/Pontic are successors of an already existing prenominal HRC structure with ‘relative articles’ but are by no means identical to this structure today. In Pharasiot, on the other hand, the ‘tu’ morpheme introducing HRCs is historically bimorphemic, composed of an external determiner from the neuter set (t-) and an invariant complementizer (u) that was employed to introduce HRCs. The morphological merger of these two yielded the prenominal HRCs in Pharasiot, which are by hypothesis of matching type. Tests applied on modern-day Pharasiot HRCs support the idea that these prenominal HRCs are indeed matching HRCs. On the other hand, the newly emerged postnominal HRCs, I argue, emerged due to pattern borrowing from Modern Greek and to identification of ‘tu’ with the Modern Greek invariant relativizer ‘pu’. This is witnessed by the fact that postnominal HRCs in Pharasiot are raising HRCs, precisely as Modern Greek HRCs with the invariant complementizer ‘pu’ (and without resumptives). In effect then, in modern-day Pharasiot, prenominal and postnominal HRCs differ not only in terms of their linear word order but also in terms of their internal structure.

All in all, the study casts serious doubts on the long-standing assumptions that (i) HRCs in the dialects are prenominal (solely) due to the Turkish influence exerted on them fr almost a millennium, and that (ii) Pharasiot is a sub-variety of Pontic or Cappadocian.

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