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Current research project

Title / Titel The Diachrony of Agreement Systems: Welsh - Breton - German (and other Germanic languages)
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Original title / Originaltitel Diachronie von Kongruenzsystemen: Kymrisch - Bretonisch - Deutsch (und weitere germanische Sprachen)
Summary / Zusammenfassung Previous research project on the Diachrony of Agreement Systems has made it clear, first, that the diachrony of agreement systems can be described and analyzed in terms of Corbett's Agreement Hierarchy, second, that cases of non-formal agreement, which are specifically interesting from a theoretical point of view, are, on a whole, relatively rare, but nevertheless consistently attested, and third, that text type or genre has an influence on the behavior of agreement. This last effect constitutes an impediment to our understanding of diachronic developments and we therefore aim to control for this factor via analyses of parallel texts (i. e. the same text in different linguistic versions) in the follow-up project. Since parallel texts constitute translations or adaptations of the same text it is not only the text genre that remains constant but even the text itself. In order to identify paths of development in individual languages more precisely, agreement phenomena will be systematically compared and contrasted in closely related languages. This comparative diachronic approach will enable us to more accurately assess these development paths since the agreement systems involved originated from similar or identical sources. The development of agreement systems will be analyzed in parallel texts in German (and other Germanic languages), Welsh and Breton. The analysis will proceed as follows: 1) exhaustive documentation of all instances of agreement in a Bible passage averaging approx. 2,000 words (Luke 1:5-2:35) in seven German, three Welsh and three Breton translations as well as in a passage averaging approx. 1,000 words (Luke 1:5-59) in twenty old and modern Germanic Bible translations 2) targeted search for and documentation of instances of mismatch constellations (i.e. constellations which exhibit an inherent conflict between grammatically and semantically motivated agreement) in the same versions of the Bible and in the medieval and (early) modern parallel texts of German, Welsh and Breton The analysis of parallel texts yields data for the development of agreement systems which is exactly comparable, both in terms of the cross-linguistic occurrence of agreement and in terms of the frequency of different agreement types. For German, despite its morphological reduction, a diachronic increase of agreement can be observed, which is caused by expansion of the attributive agreement, while for the older Germanic languages predicative agreement is dominating. Breton shows an expansion of attributive agreement as well, while Welsh shows an expansion of predicative agreement. This project will enable us to develop a diachronic typology of agreement and thus provide a typologically informed and empirically sound contribution to a field currently underrepresented in the research of historical syntax.
Publications / Publikationen Fleischer, Jürg; Rieken, Elisabeth; Widmer, Paul (2015). Introduction: the diachrony of agreement. In: Fleischer, Jürg; Rieken, Elisabeth; Widmer, Paul. Agreement from a Diachronic Perspective. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1-26.

Rieken, Elisabeth; Widmer, Paul (2014). Kongruiert alles? Zu den Kongruenzmustern des Pronominaladjektivs der Bedeutung ‚all, jeder, ganz‘ im Griechischen und Hethitischen. In: Oettinger, Norbert; Steer, Thomas. Das Nomen im Indogermanischen. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 342-359.

Widmer, Paul (2014). Agreement. In: Giannakis, Georgios. Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek Language and Linguistics. Leiden: Brill, 73-76.

Agreement from a Diachronic Perspective. Edited by: Fleischer, Jürg; Rieken, Elisabeth; Widmer, Paul (2015). Berlin: de Gruyter.

Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Prof. Dr. Paul Widmer (Project Leader)
Prof. Dr. Jürg Fleischer
Prof. Dr. Erich Poppe
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
Other Public Sources (e.g. Federal or Cantonal Agencies)
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Jul 2016 to Jun 2019