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Re: Language Change

From:Lars Henrik Mathiesen <thorinn@...>
Date:Friday, January 7, 2000, 20:46
> Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2000 23:35:15 +0200 > From: Markus Miekk-oja <torpet@...> > > > Proto-Indo-European's cases are thought by many to have evolved from > > postpositions. If English re-evolved cases, they would no doubt come > > from our prepositions, and would appear as prefixes. > > > > Is it probable that adjective case agreement would appear at the same time, > or does that come afterwards? > > I know that (some of) the baltic sea Finno-Ugric languages (Finnish, for > instance) do have agreement, though those in Siberia generally don't. I'm > not sure though if this actually is proof for such a statement.
'Probable' I don't know, but 'possible' certainly. It depends on the original word order. Take a situation like Modern English, with prepositional phrases like 'to the house', 'to the red house', and imagine that the preposition and determiner fuse to the next word phonetically: 'to-the-house', 'to-the-red house'. We now have inflection on bare nouns, and on the first adjective in a noun phrase --- but no agreement. However, since it is really the head of the phrase (the noun) that 'should' be modified by the case marker, it is very possible that the inflection spreads there by analogy: 'to-the-red to-the-house'. You now have agreement. On the other hand, if you start with a language like French (ignoring for the moment the vestiges of old inflection remaining), where you have 'a la maison' and 'a la maison rouge', you'd probably not see inflected adjectives and agreement arising 'automatically'. But they might evolve later or be introduced from other languages. Lars Mathiesen (U of Copenhagen CS Dep) <thorinn@...> (Humour NOT marked)