|Title||On the synchrony and diachrony of gender agreement in Pontic Greek: syntactic versus semantic|
Alongside the syntactic agreement system that it inherited from earlier stages in its history as a Modern Greek (MGr) dialect—according to which targets (articles, adjectives, some nume-rals, participles, pronouns) agree with the morphologically-assigned gender value of their controllers (masculine, feminine, neuter)—, Pontic Greek exhibits a semantic agreement sys-tem that represents a clear diachronic innovation when compared to the situation found in the overwhelming majority of MGr dialects, in which gender agreement can only be syntactic. Despite the significant attention that this phenomenon has attracted in the past (Koutita-Kaimaki 1988/1989; Oeconomides 1890; Papadopoulos 1955), extant literature falls short of providing (a) a theoretically-informed description of the synchrony of gender agreement in Pontic, that is, an account of the distribution of syntactic and semantic agreement in modern linguistic terms, and (b) an explanatorily adequate proposal of the historical origin and subse-quent diachronic development of the innovative semantic agreement system. Within this context, my aim in this paper is to address these two issues adopting the theoretical frame-work of Corbett (1991, 2006).
As far as the synchrony of gender agreement is concerned, my analysis shows that the distri-bution of the two agreement systems in Pontic—syntactic and semantic—is conditioned by the morphological and semantic properties of agreement controllers, viz. their morphologi-cally-assigned gender value and the position their referents occupy on the Animacy Hierarchy (see, inter alia, Dahl 2000), as well as by the position agreement targets occupy on Corbett’s Agreement Hierarchy—in other words, by the syntactic distance between control-lers and targets. As shown in the examples below, human nouns, whose referents are found at the high end of the Animacy Hierarchy, trigger syntactic agreement on all kinds of agreement targets (1a); on the contrary, the overwhelming majority of targets controlled by low-end, inanimate nouns—which can be morphologically-assigned to either the masculine or the feminine gender—appear in their neuter form to agree with the semantic properties of their controllers. The singular forms of the definite article that agree with their controllers syntactically when immediately preceding them, that is, when the distance between controller and target is minimal, are the only exception to this pattern that is otherwise found in all agreement domains, stretching from attributives within the NP to pronominal anaphora beyond it (1b). The combined effect of animacy and gender is particularly well-illustrated by nouns denoting non-human animate entities. As can be seen in (1c), targets controlled by masculine nouns of this type agree with them syntactically and therefore appear in their masculine forms; targets controlled by feminine nouns agree with them semantically in appearing in their neuter form.
Turning now to the diachrony of semantic agreement in Pontic, the examples above show that the distinction conditioning agreement with masculine nouns is animate versus inani-mate; with feminine nouns semantic agreement is based on the human versus non-human distinction. This difference is taken here to suggest that the innovative semantic distinction that first became operative in Pontic agreement was between animate and inanimate, with the neuter gender expressing the latter part, the one occupying the lower end of the Animacy Hierarchy. This original distinction was later redefined as human versus non-human with the neuter being again associated with the expression of the lower-end part of the distinction, as shown by feminine nouns. As far as agreement controllers are concerned, the preservation of syntactic agreement on the definite article, the target that is found closest to the controller, for all semantic types of nouns in the singular suggests that semantic agreement initially applied in a domain outside the NP. Drawing further on the evidence from Óphis Pontic in (1d) that shows that the only target with which semantic agreement is possible when controlled by a masculine noun denoting a non-human animate entity is the personal pronoun, I argue that that exactly was the first target to express the distinction between animate and inanimate when this became initially operative in Pontic agreement—a proposal that complies with the typological findings of Corbett (1991, 2006) and Greenberg (1978). From there, I further postulate that semantic agreement was extended to more targets along the path defined by Corbett’s Agreement Hierarchy. As for the origin—or, trigger—of semantic agreement in Pontic, I propose that it is to be found in the conflict between the semantic and morphologi-cal properties of inanimate masculine and feminine nouns that were thought by speakers to belong to the ‘right’ gender for their morphology but to the ‘wrong’ gender for their seman-tics. This gender conflict is therefore considered to have triggered the resemanticisation (in the sense of Wurzel 1986) of the Pontic gender system evidenced in (1b-d).
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|Conference||15th International Morphology Meeting|
|Accepted author manuscript|