This paper investigates contact-induced changes in the argument structure of Middle English verbs on the model of Old French.1 We study two issues: i) to what extent did the English system retain and integrate the argument structure of verbs copied from French? ii) did the argument structure of these copied verbs influence the argument structure of native verbs? Our study is based on empirical evidence from Middle English corpora as well as a full text analysis of the Ayenbite of Inwyt and focusses on a number of verbs governing a dative in French. In the first part of the paper we define the contact situation and relate it to Johanson’s (2002) model of code copying. In the second part we comment on Allen’s (1995) study of please and some other psych verbs and corroborate her assumptions that i) semantic similarity triggered change within the set of these verbs, and ii) this change has reflexes in the syntactic realisation of the dative argument as a prepositional phrase. We propose a method to identify contact-induced change beyond the verb class originally affected. More explicitly, based on further empirical evidence, we show that the argument structure of the native verb give, a transfer of possession verb, was also affected by these changes and that these effects are stronger in texts that are directly influenced by French.
Carola Trips and Achim Stein
This paper sketches the integration of Greek-origin loan verbs into the valency and transitivity patterns of Coptic (Afroasiatic, Egypt), arguing that transitivities are language-specific descriptive categories, and the comparison of donor-language transitivity with target-language transitivity reveals fine-grained degrees of loan-verb integration. Based on a comparison of Coptic Transitivity and Greek Transitivity, it is shown that Greek-origin loanwords are only partially integrated into the transitivity patterns of Coptic. Specifically, while Greek-origin loan verbs have the same coding properties as native verbs in terms of the A domain, i.e., Differential Subject Marking (dsm), they differ in important respects in terms of the P domain, i.e., Differential Object Marking (dom) and Differential Object Indexing (doi). A main result of this study is that language contact – specifically, massive lexical borrowing – can induce significant transitivity splits in a language’s lexicon and grammar. Furthermore, the findings of this study cast doubt on the usefulness of an overarching cross-linguistic category of transitivity.
This paper looks at the different ways French (and English) loan verbs are being integrated in Michif, a mixed language (the noun system is French, the verbal one is Cree) based upon two dictionaries of the language. The detailed study of the available data has shown that loan verbs are almost exclusively assigned to the vai class, i.e. a class of verbs whose single core argument is animate. This seems natural enough given that the overwhelming majority of them do have an animate core participant in the donor language as well. Still, quite a few of them can be transitive. This is accounted for by claiming that vai is the most ‘neutral’ inflectional class of Cree as far as morphology and argument structure are concerned as verbs in this class can be syntactically both intransitive and transitive.
Finally, all of the loan verbs examined have Cree equivalents and so the claim that they were borrowed because of the lack of a corresponding Cree verb in the language is difficult to accept at face value.
Nikolaos Lavidas and Ianthi Maria Tsimpli
We examine spontaneous production data from the dialect of Modern West Thracian Greek (mwtg) (the local dialect of Evros) with regard to a hypothesis of syntactic borrowing of verbal transitivity. We argue that mwtg allows omission of the direct object with specific reference, in contrast to Standard Modern Greek (smg) and other Modern Greek (mg) dialects (spoken in Greece), but similar to Turkish. Object omission in mwtg is possible only in contexts where smg and other mg dialects show obligatory use of the 3rd-person clitic. We argue that syntactic borrowing in the case of language contact follows the transfer with second language learners: the relevant elements that host uninterpretable features are used optionally. Moreover, the definite article, in contrast to the indefinite article, is also affected by language contact. The 3rd-person clitic and the definite article are affected by contact as uninterpretable clusters of features. We claim that interpretability plays a significant role in transitivity in cases of language contact.
Melanie Green and Gabriel Ozón
We explore valency and transitivity patterns in Cameroon Pidgin English (cpe) from a language contact perspective, with particular focus on (a) lexical and (b) constructional phenomena. With respect to (a), many verbs of English origin surface in cpe with additional senses and valency properties to those they display in the lexifier, illustrating the drive towards polysemy in a language with a relatively small lexicon. We also describe category change, whereby English non-verbal expressions (typically adjectives) emerge as verbs in cpe. In terms of (b), verbs undergo valency changes as a consequence of participation in productive serial verb constructions. These constructions are built around a small set of high-frequency verbs, some of which also occur in the light verb construction, which represents another strategy for the creation of complex predicates. We review the evidence for constructional substrate influence. The data under discussion are drawn from two small corpora of spoken cpe.
Eitan Grossman and Alena Witzlack-Makarevich
This paper presents the case of a language with rich indexation and limited case marking (Japhug) extensively borrowing verbs from a language without indexation but with case marking (an unattested Tibetic language close to the ancestor of Amdo Tibetan). It provides a comprehensive survey of the argument structure and transitivity categories of Japhug verbs of Tibetic origin in comparison with those of the corresponding verbs in Amdo Tibetan, the attested Tibetic language closest to the donor of loanwords into Japhug. This survey shows that verbs of Tibetic origin are fully integrated morphosyntactically into Japhug, and that with a few exceptions, the argument structure of the original verb is predictable from that of the Japhug verb.
Susanne Maria Michaelis
Creole languages consistently show valency patterns that cannot be traced back to their lexifier languages, but derive from their substrate languages. In this paper, I start out from the observation that a convincing case for substrate influence can be made by adopting a world-wide comparative approach. If there are recurrent matches between substrate and creole structures in a given construction type, in creoles of different world regions and with different substrates, then we can exclude the possibility of an accident, and substrate influence is the only explanation. The construction types that I will look at are ditransitive constructions (Section 3), weather constructions (Section 4), experiencer constructions (Section 5), and motion constructions (Section 6). I will draw on the unique typological data source from the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures (Michaelis et al., 2013a; 2013b). My conclusion is that the data provided in AP i CS support the claim that during creolization, valency patterns have been systematically calqued into the nascent creoles.
Verb clusters are a linguistic phenomenon where two or more verbs align in adjacent order. This paper discusses the structure of a certain type of verb cluster, namely modal infinitivo pro participio (IPP) structures, in main clauses of a moribund heritage variety of German, Moundridge Schweitzer German (MSG), spoken in Kansas. An acceptability judgment task was conducted with twelve participants to investigate two aspects of verb clusters in MSG. The first question concerned the integration of non-verbal elements, here the direct object (DO) and the negation particle (neg), in the verbal complex. The second question investigates whether MSG modal IPPs show variability in verb order, which is an essential characteristic of this type of verb cluster in other verb-cluster languages. The results show that modal IPP constructions in MSG have a fixed 2–3 verb order but allow object scrambling to some degree. Thus, while the ordering of verbs lacks syntactic variability, flexibility and variation are attested in the placement of the non-verbal constituents within the verbal complex. This is interpreted as the retention of an archaic dialectal trait.