LINGUIST List 5.1484

Mon 19 Dec 1994

Disc: Comparative Syntax

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  1. "Valiquette, Philippe Luc", Comparative Syntax

Message 1: Comparative Syntax

Date: Sat, 17 Dec 94 14:59:29 ESComparative Syntax
From: "Valiquette, Philippe Luc" <>
Subject: Comparative Syntax

On Mon, 12 Dec 94 21:04:31 EST ( wrote:

)Subject: Comparative Syntax

)While I really like most of what Scott DeLancey had to say about
)syntactic reconstruction usually being based on clues buried in
)the morphology (or morphophonology), I don't think this is always
)the case. There is a rather famous example involving a rule of
)Ancient Greek and one variety of Old Iranian (the languages of
)the Gatha's, I seem to recall), whereby a neuter pl. subject
)triggers sg. agreement on a verb, a pattern which is often
)reconstructed for the proto-language because, as I understand it,
)of its apparent oddity. This reconstruction is not logically
)dependent, I don't believe, on the identity of the actual morphemes
)marking gender, number, and person in these languages.
)I would think that there are many such quirks of syntax which
)could be the basis of a reconstruction.

The phenomenon mentioned for Ancient Greek -- that can apply as well to
Latin -- doesn't appear to be a (<quirk of syntax)>. Rather than being
_apparently odd_ and motivated by a _rule_ of invariable agreement, it
should be regarded as a (<quirk of meaning)>. While neuter pl. subjects,
still showing in Ancient Greek and Latin evidence of an ancient collective
case, have *usually* triggered sg. agreement on a verb, numerous examples
show that this pseudo rule wasn't always observed, and that semantic
considerations, most of the time -- moreover, metrical reasons for poets
--, have governed the agreement (syllepsis).

Thus I do not believe (<quirks of syntax [at least this one in particular]
could be the basis of a reconstruction)>.

La plupart sont d'accord, n'est-ce pas ?(not literally: What about

Philippe L. Valiquette
Universite Laval, Dep. Linguistique
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