LINGUIST List 14.1463

Wed May 21 2003

Diss: Typology: Aldai: The grammaticalization..."

Editor for this issue: Naomi Fox <>


  1. aldai, The grammaticalization of present and past in Basque

Message 1: The grammaticalization of present and past in Basque

Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 02:00:52 +0000
From: aldai <>
Subject: The grammaticalization of present and past in Basque

Institution: University of Southern California
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Gontzal Aldai 

Dissertation Title: The grammaticalization of present and past in Basque

Linguistic Field: Typology 
Dissertation Director 1: Bernard Comrie
Dissertation Director 2: John A Hawkins
Dissertation Director 3: Mario Saltarelli

Dissertation Abstract: 

The present dissertation examines the Tense-Aspect-Mood (TAM) system
of historical Basque, focusing on the spheres of present and past
perfective. This work is based on the framework of the theory of
grammaticalization, which is part of the more general assumption that
grammars are conventionalizations of language use. The main goals of
this dissertation are the following:

1) To contribute to the understanding of the design (i.e. the
relationship between form and meaning) of the Basque TAM constructions
under consideration, from a grammaticalization and typological

2) To contribute to the understanding of cross-linguistically common
sources and clines of grammaticalization.

3) And to test against the Basque data several hypotheses arising from
the clines of grammaticalization.

Regarding the first goal, this work shows how the theory of
grammaticalization can account for the Basque data, based on the
comparison with the evolutions of cross-linguistic parallels. Some of
the issues in the Basque TAM system which are nicely explained from
this perspective are the present habitual meaning of the Periphrastic
Present (a construction grammaticalized as a locative present
progressive), the perfective meaning of the Past Perfect-Perfective (a
construction grammaticalized as pluperfect), the existence in Old
Basque of the Periphrastic Aorist (a construction grammaticalized with
dynamic auxiliaries which are only used in non-indicative contexts in
Modern Basque), and the evidential use in Old Basque of the Present
Perfect-Perfective (a construction grammaticalized as present

Regarding the latter goals, some of the contributions of the Basque
data come from the conservation of the high token-frequency forms of
the Synthetic Present, and from the clear existence in Basque of pairs
of layers with the same source of grammaticalization. An interesting
areal phenomenon is provided by the Basque Double-compound Perfects, a
type of construction reported in Occitan, French and German.

The last chapter of this dissertation has a more ambitious but more
tentative goal. It is devoted to discussing general issues on the
design of TAM systems, such as (non)discreteness, competing
motivations, frequency, conventionalization, etc. This part is
intended to offer insights for further research.
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