Sources of auxiliation in the perfects of Europe

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This paper explores the complex role of language contact in the development of be and have auxiliation in the periphrastic perfects of Europe. Beginning with the influence of Ancient Greek on Latin, it traces the spread of the category across western Europe and identifies the Carolingian scribal tradition as largely responsible for extending the use of the be perfect alongside the have perfect across Charlemagne’s realm. Outside that territory, by contrast, in “peripheral” areas like Iberia, Southern Italy, and England, have came to be used as the only perfect auxiliary. Within the innovating core area, a further innovation began in Paris in the 12th century and spread to contiguous areas in France, Southern Germany, and northern Italy: the semantic shift in the perfects from anterior to preterital meaning. What can be concluded from these three successive instances of diffusion in the history of the perfect is that contact should be regarded as one of the essential “multiple sources” of innovation, and as a fundamental explanatory mechanism for language change.


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