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Why should a demonstrative turn into a preposition? The evolution of Welsh predicative yn


Gensler,  Orin D.
Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Gensler, O. D. (2002). Why should a demonstrative turn into a preposition? The evolution of Welsh predicative yn. Language, 78(4), 710-764.

This article is devoted to the anatomy of an unnatural syntactic change. It presents the life history of the Welsh predicative particle yn-its diachronic genesis in Indo- European, its synchronic status, and (much more centrally) what happened along the way, and why what happened happened specifically in Welsh. Synchronically, I give syntactic, semantic, typological, and textual arguments-some rather new- that both predicative yn and verb-periphrastic yn are adverbializers and count as grammatically polysemous subsenses of the preposition 'in'. Diachronically, I argue that the pan- Celtic adverbializing particles yn/ent/int/ind (thence ultimately Welsh predicative yn) all derive from an article- like demonstrative *sindo-/sinto- (and not from a preposition *endo/ento). Radical categorial changes must therefore have occurred. I trace these changes and motivate a multistage metanalysis (not involving grammaticalization) whereby the original quasi-article first became an adverbializer and then was attracted into the orbit of the preposition 'in'. Though each microstage in the process makes good structural sense vis- A-vis the evolving systeme of the language, the achieved macrochange is highly unnatural.*.