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Lecture | Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series

Requiem for a Theme

  • Fabienne Martin (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Thursday 3 June 2021
Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series
Online via Skype (e-mail m.p.m.bogaards@hum.leidenuniv.nl)


Conjugation classes in Romance and beyond are typically seen as not contributing anything deterministic to the syntax or semantics; they are just a morphological necessity, often encoded by theme vowels. Contrary to this view, we explore the intuition that most French “Group 2” verbs have semantic characteristics, namely that they denote change of state. We provide a first experimental test of this hypothesis and outline a formal analysis. Our conclusion is that “Group 2” contains a productive verbalizing Cause morpheme /i(s)/ which speakers are able to generalize from. French has thus no conjugation classes as such, and only limited use of theme vowels. Rather, it has regular verbs (-er, “Gr. 1”), regular verbs with the /i(s)/ suffix (“Gr. 2”) and a small set of irregulars (“Gr. 3”).

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