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The Slavonic Languages and the Development of the Antipassive Marker

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Abstract

This article deals with the development of dedicated antipassive markers in a crosslinguistic perspective, with a special attention given to Slavonic languages. Initially, this marker was associated exclusively with ergative languages in which it was treated as a valence reducing operator. Attached to the verbal form, it ditransitives a transitive construction without affecting the semantic content of a sentence. This led many scholars to insist on a simple dichotomy according to which ergative languages possess antipassive constructions due to the presence of a dedicated antipassive marker, whereas languages of accusative alignment are said implicitly to be deprived of this type of operation and this is because of the lack of a specialized antipassive marker. Thus, the presence of a dedicated antipassive marker was treated as one of decisive criteria in the recognition of the antipassive in accusative languages. The recent and expanded crosslinguistic investigations reveal, however, that ergative languages present a whole range of variations concerning the antipassive marker. Among those ergative languages which developed a dedicated antipassive marker, i.e. a marker specialized in the antipassive function, in some of them this marker is also used in a middle domain. This means that in these languages the antipassive marker is polyfunctional, being related diachronically to other grammatical categories, mostly reflexivity. This article shows that a similar morphological correlation also exists in accusative languages, in particular in Russian. We argue that all Slavonic languages attest a dedicated antipassive marker that evolved from reflexivity by hand of middle domain. Keywords: antipassive; reflexive; polysemy; valence change

References

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