Nominalization and re-finitization

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The mechanisms via which subordinate clauses arise are relatively well explored, involving two major diachronic pathways (Givón 2009): first, via clause-chaining constructions, as in many Niger-Congo, Papua-New Guinea, Southeast Asian, Athabaskan, or Southern Arawak languages; and second, via nominalization, as in Turkic, Bodic/Tibetan, Cariban, or Northern Uto-Aztecan languages. In many of the latter, erstwhile nominalized subordinate clauses later undergo re-finitization, and the question then arises: by what diachronic mechanism do nominalized clauses eventually revert to finite structure? I have suggested earlier (Givón 2000) that in Ute (Northern Uto-Aztecan), the mechanism may involve the gradual re-acquisition of finite-features such as tense-aspect, but the details of this proposal were never documented. Three other mechanisms seem to suggest themselves. First, in some Bodic/Tibetan languages (Watters 1998) a new generation of finite subordinate clauses emerges, co-exists with, and slowly supplants the older nominalized clauses. Second, in Cariban, Northern Uto-Aztecan, Indo-European, Bantu and many other languages, subordinate clauses, in particular V-complements, are de-subordinated through tense-aspect genesis and other grammaticalization processes, and their nominalized structure then becomes the new finite mainclause standard (Evans 2007, Gildea, 1998, Givón 1971). Finally, in some Northern Uto-Aztecan languages (Guarijio, Tarahumara), the re-finitization mechanism seem to involve a slow elimination of nominalized features, such as e.g. genitive subjects, or re-interpretation of their function. This paper lays the background for a more fine-grained investigation of the diachrony of re-finitization.


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