Typology or reconstruction

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By and large in the generative framework, syntactic comparisons concern isolated mechanisms within different languages in a typological perspective. However, comparison can provide more if, as dialectologists, we consider that variation between closely genealogically related languages throws light on diachronic reconstruction. Indeed, if diatopic variation represents different stages of a change, then different dialects in a homogeneous area display different stages of the evolution and the speakers’ I-language for the earlier stages becomes accessible. Considering the Null ‘Subject’ Parameter, we focus on the dialects at the boundaries of Occitania since they display subject clitics for some persons only. Our data illustrate the gradual change between a stage zero (with no subject clitics, e.g. Latin) and a stage n (with subject clitics for all persons, e.g. Standard French). Analyzing clitics as bundles of features, we propose a progression in their emergence, which ties in with a functional ‘motivational cycle’ of the morpho-syntactic elements.


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