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Lecture | Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series

Dissecting habituality: The Croatian know and its kin

Thursday 4 May 2023
Com(parative) Syn(tax) Series
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


Habituality is a versatile concept bordering categories such as aspect, modality, and iterativity, and has been used to describe a range of diverse meanings and configurations (see Boneh & Jędrzejowski 2019 for an overview). I investigate a habitual-like configuration in Croatian in which the verb znati ‘know’ embeds an infinitive (see also Hellman 2005) and discuss its syntactic and semantic properties. Comparing znati with expressions from other languages that have been described as habitual requires dissecting the notion of habituality and reveals three broad subcategories.

As for znati in particular, I argue that it is semi-lexical (Emonds 1985, Corver & Van Riemsdijk 2001, Cavirani-Pots 2020). Iterativity figures prominently in its meaning, pointing into a functional direction. At the same time, even though znati is a raising verb (and the subject thus need not possess knowledge of any kind), the core knowledge component applies to the speaker instead, invoking an evidential-like flavour. Since verbs denoting knowledge are known to grammaticalize not only into habitual but also into evidential markers (Kuteva et al. 2019), this comes as no surprise.

Finally, znati is also used as a factive verb and an ability modal. I explore a possible direction towards connecting these different meanings, especially in light of the finding that other languages (e.g., Norwegian, English) employ know in a similarly diverse manner.

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