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How far can diachronic change be predicted

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This paper attempts to predict diachronic change in the restricted domain of Italo-Romance first person plural present indicative allomorphs, starting from the reconstructed Proto-Italo-Romance forms -amo, -emo, -imo, preserved in several dialects to this day (with corresponding subjunctives -emo, -iamo, -iamo). The predictions, or rather retrodictions (to be differentiated below) are based on the theory of Natural Morphology (NM). Morphology-initiated changes lead to 64 logically conceivable distributions in the earlier and present Italo-Romance dialects. The retrodictions are meant to account for the identity of attested distributions with possible (‘legal’) distributions, for unattested impossible (‘illegal’) distributions and for two accidental gaps in distributions. Moreover, we try to predict why certain attested distributions are more probable and therefore more frequent than others and introduce a new method of empirically testing such probability retrodictions.
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Keywords: Italo-Romance dialects; Natural Morphology; first person plural present; predicting diachronic change; retrodictions; theory of diachrony

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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