Counterfactuals in the History of Greek: An Enriched Diachronic Typology using a Context-Sensitive Evolutionary Model

01 November 2019 → 31 October 2023
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Comparative language studies
    • Corpus linguistics
    • Diachronic linguistics
    • Historical linguistics
    • Philology
Project description

(1) If I were you,… (2) I should (have) know(n). (3) If only she had listened. These constructions are counterfactuals. They speculate about an unrealizable state of affairs based on an unrealized condition. Every language has these expressions but in varying forms. Counterfactuals originate from formerly non-counterfactual expressions through semantic bleaching, phonological reduction etc. in a grammaticalization cycle. Cross-linguistic comparative research has thus far yielded premature generalizations on the nature and evolution of counterfactuals. Either the studies are too limited in scope, e.g. to counterfactual conditionals (1), modals (2) and wishes (3) or leave unanswered which linguistic versus contextual factors are responsible for which counterfactual evolutionary stages. Therefore, generalizations and proposed cycles are tentative at best. This project aims to remedy these shortcomings by analysing the counterfactuals more diverse in types than studied thus far from Ancient Greek (from 750BCE to 100CE). The results of analysing these (largely) unstudied counterfactual expression types are: (1) a more representative evolutionary cycle which can be applied to other languages; (2) an innovatively quantifiable evolution model using collocation patterns and usage context features; (3) a unified account of the role of tense, aspect, and modality compared to context for the evolutionary stages of counterfactuals; (4) a monograph on counterfactuals in Ancient Greek.