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Into the past: Morphological change in the dying years of Dalmatian

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This study is concerned with Vegliote, the last remnant of the Dalmatian branch of the Romance languages, as used by its very last speaker in the last quarter of the 19th century. Specifically, I shall deal with a peculiar morphological neutralization of the distinction between present and past imperfect tenses, which becomes increasingly common in that speaker’s usage over the last twenty years of his life. After careful consideration of the status and significance of data gleaned from analysis of the idiolect of just this one speaker, I shall explain the analogical mechanisms of the change and argue that they constitute strong evidence for the diachronic importance of Aronoff’s notion of the ‘morphome’ — a recurrent distributional regularity, wholly lacking in extramorphological motivation, within the inflectional paradigm. I shall also consider the significance of these facts for our understanding of the morphological processes at work in language death.

Keywords: Dalmatian language; Morphomic structure; Romance languages; analogy; language death; morphological change; verbal paradigms

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Trinity College, Oxford

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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