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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Grammaticalization of Present and Past in Basque Add Dissertation
Author: Gontzal Aldai Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Southern California, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2002
Linguistic Subfield(s): Typology;
Subject Language(s): Basque
Director(s): Bernard Comrie
John Hawkins
Mario Saltarelli

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 perspective.

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 perfect).

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.