Tracing change and reaction in the Latin tense system: an empirical analysis of language-internal and language-external influences on the development of morphological innovations and form-function pairings from Early Latin to Early Romance

01 October 2021 → 30 September 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Latin language
    • Corpus linguistics
    • Diachronic linguistics
    • Historical linguistics
    • Semantics
    • Text linguistics
Latin tense system Language ecology Diachronic semantics
Project description

To fully understand the long development of the form-function pairings involved in the Latin tenses, we must view them as part of a system - a system that relates to other linguistic systems in the Latin language (internal level) and the world beyond (external level). On and across these levels, natural changes (e.g. sound changes, language contact) can trigger reactions in affected systems in an attempt to restore the balance in the community’s potential to communicate effectively. Such a view of language as an adaptive, self-sustaining ecosystem not unlike our natural world, allows the linguist to trace the origins of morphological innovations and the semantic shifts within a linguistic system in any given language. Latin, as a closed-corpus language with natural attestations ranging from the 7th c. BCE to the 9th c. CE, can offer insights into the extent, direction, and velocity such reactional developments can assume in languages of all times and their future. Specifically, this project will assess the correlations - over the course of Latin as a natural language - between the increasing use of morphological innovations in the tense system and their functional competition with ‘old’ forms, the phonological/morphological developments that facilitated them, and ultimately the language-internal and language- external influences that inspired them.