Grammaticalization of <i>commencer/cominciare</i> &#8220;to begin&#8221; in French and Italian

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This study presents a synchronic and diachronic analysis of the French and Italian aspectualizers <i>commencer</i> and <i>cominciare</i> from the perspective of grammaticalization theory. They show properties of both full verbs and auxiliaries, and thus have traditionally proven difficult to analyze. It is argued that these aspectualizers are best explained by taking into account their historical development from Latin <i>initiare</i> &#8220;to initiate&#8221;. Synchronic and diachronic data are presented in order to locate them on the Verb-to-TAM chain, a continuum ranging from full lexical verbs on one end to purely grammatical tense, aspect, and mood affixes on the other. Their mixed semantic and syntactic properties are due to their position on the continuum between lexical verbs and auxiliaries. The differences between <i>commencer</i> and <i>cominciare</i> with respect to their degree of grammaticalization are also discussed. Key words: grammaticalization; aspectualizers; auxiliary; commencer; cominciare


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