Rethinking the genesis of the Romance periphrastic perfect

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The Romance languages all display periphrastic perfects that can be traced to Latin [habere “have” + noun + perfect participle]. A new survey of the Latin corpus reveals that this string had three distinct structures and values. I argue that the likeliest source of the perfects is a periphrasis denoting the achievement of a result or a persisting resultant state. This implies that the relationship between possessive and auxiliary habere is more complex than previously supposed. Finally, I examine the range of values that this periphrasis takes across the Romance languages. I maintain that the growth of the perfect at the expense of the preterite followed an orderly pattern, with requirements on the temporal denotation of the perfect successively relaxed.

Keywords: Latin; Romance; auxiliary; grammaticalization; perfect; possession

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • International Journal for Historical Linguistics
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