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LINGUIST List 20.2624

Tue Jul 28 2009

Diss: Historical Ling/Syntax: Madariaga: 'New Case Relations in Old...'

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        1.    Nerea Madariaga, New Case Relations in Old and Present-Day Russian: the role of peripheral-core syntactic interactions in grammar change

Message 1: New Case Relations in Old and Present-Day Russian: the role of peripheral-core syntactic interactions in grammar change
Date: 28-Jul-2009
From: Nerea Madariaga <nerea.madariagaehu.es>
Subject: New Case Relations in Old and Present-Day Russian: the role of peripheral-core syntactic interactions in grammar change
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Institution: Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco
Program: Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Nerea Madariaga

Dissertation Title: New Case Relations in Old and Present-Day Russian: the role of peripheral-core syntactic interactions in grammar change

Dissertation URL: www.ehu.es/nereamadariaga/dissertation

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Russian (rus)

Dissertation Director:
Ivan Igartua
Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation proposes a minimal way to account for syntactic change,
and more specifically, for changes in case relations, under the
Lightfootian (1999, 2006) view of the discontinuity of language
transmission between generations. Namely, I propose two conditions that
determine the way change takes place between one generation and following
generations of speakers: the first condition predicts that a parsing
conflict is triggered when there is some superfluous PF / LF symbol in the
linguistic input a learner must parse. In this case, the offending element
must either be eliminated (not acquired), or integrated as part of the
periphery, outside core grammar. The second condition restricts reanalysis
to the cases where it is strictly necessary, and applies in two ways: (i)
when a parsing conflict arises, reanalysis takes place only in case all the
evidence pointing to the old structure is lost; (ii) otherwise, reanalysis
takes place when a reanalyzed form provides some functional advantage or
makes parsing easier.

My hypothesis is that these two conditions also determine changes in
grammatical case in the history of a language, and namely, that the parsing
conflicts determining case change are in fact conflicts at the LF interface
level, i.e. in the theta-role (semantic) relation between a certain head
and a NP. Such a thematic conflict arises when the data a learner receives
seem to violate the correlation 'theta-role assignment to a NP by the same
head, which values case on that NP'. The two conditions I propose predict
two ways to override these conflicts: (i) to acquire the irregular sequence
by 'learning' it as a special lexical specification of a verb; (ii) to
reanalyze the conflicting data. To illustrate this hypothesis, I analyze
the process of rising and spreading of new case markers in several Old
Russian and Present-day Russian constructions.

The two instances of change in Russian case analyzed in this thesis are the
following ones: (i) the triggering of the use of instrumental predicate
case in Old Russian NPs and its extension through other categories and
syntactic environments until nowadays, with special attention to the
restrictions of this spreading; and (ii) the shift from genitive to
accusative object marking undergone by several classes of verbs in Middle
and Present-day Russian. The historical data analyzed in this dissertation
show that the 'difficulties' which can take place in language processing
during the acquisition period can be diachronically eliminated from a
language or adapted to it; where the adaptation process involves either a
syntactic or a semantic change of the problematic structures. This work
focuses on syntactic adaptive changes although, as will be seen throughout
this dissertation, semantic change can take place in a collateral way to
the syntactic processes studied.

Another central issue investigated in this thesis is the question of the
so-called linguistic periphery. I will argue that some synchronic
phenomena, which escape the regular architecture of a grammar, are in fact
residues of certain historical changes and function as micro-parameters
governed by special spell-out morphological rules; in other words, these
can be defined as phenomena that have not been integrated in the core
syntax of the language and differ from this core syntax in specific
features I will analyze in this thesis.

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