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Morphological factors in the grammaticalization of the Catalan “go” past

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The Catalan periphrastic perfective past is a so-called “go” past: Vaig cantar, lit. “I-go to-sing”, “I sang” vs. Vaig allĂ , lit. “I-go there”, “I go there”. Its semantic development has been much discussed, but it presents morphological issues as well. Previous analyses ignore key morphological factors, especially the shift from the early mix of preterit and present auxiliary forms to exclusive use of the present and the development of several variant auxiliary forms. The auxiliary-plus-infinitive construction shares some but not all forms with the lexical verb anar “to go”. Early examples use mostly preterit auxiliary forms but later the small number of present forms grows and the preterit forms disappear. I argue that the present-preterit syncretism in the first person plural of anar, anam, allowed for reinterpretation of the construction as one with a present tense auxiliary rather than a preterit auxiliary. This analysis runs counter to the typical ‘narrative present’ account. Subsequently, the unique third person singular va allowed for new auxiliary forms influenced by the synthetic preterit. This case shows the importance for typological study of detailed analysis of this type to counterbalance the risk of superficial analysis inherent in crosslinguistic studies.

Keywords: Catalan; grammaticalization; historical morphology; narrative present; periphrasis; preterit; syncretism; typology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Texas State University — San Marcos

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • International Journal for Historical Linguistics

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