Subjects and objects with Latin habere and some of its Romance descendants

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This study deals with the argument structure of the Latin verb habere and its possible role in the subsequent changes. Latin habere originated in verbs that now exist almost exclusively as temporal auxiliaries in Spanish and Portuguese, but this was not always so. We find uses of this verb where it expresses possession in Late Latin texts like Itinerarium Egeriae. This raises questions as to the status of subjects and objects. In previous studies I have found that the subject-roles (active, neutral and patient) connected with the descendants of habere play a part in the development of this verb in Ibero-Romance. This paper will shed some light on the diachronic processes involved that led to these semantic and syntactic changes. The data are taken from 4th century texts. They show no sign of syntactic decay but the descending verbs have developed a more abstract sense during the period in question. The structural information of the verb does not in itself predict the disappearance of it in a few hundred years and its replacement by Ibero-Romance tenere, and this in itself intriguing.


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