Year of publication
- The accentuation of neuter nouns in Slovene and West Bulgarian (2007)
- The Slovene neo-circumflex is our major source of information for the reconstruction of Proto-Slavic long vowels in posttonic syllables (cf. Kortlandt 1976).
- The Germanic weak preterit (2007)
- The main difficulty with the Germanic weak preterit is that one cannot endeavor an explanation of its origin without taking into account almost every aspect of the historical phonology and morphology of the Germanic languages. In the following I intend to show how a number of problems receive a natural explanation in a unified treatment on the basis of earlier studies. The theory presented here is not revolutionary, but aims at integrating earlier findings into a coherent whole. There is no reason to give a detailed account of the scholarly literature, which is easily accessible (cf. Tops 1974, Bammesberger 1986).
- The spread of the Indo-Europeans (2002)
- The publication of Mallory’s book (1989) has rendered much of what I had to say in the present contribution superfluous. The author presents a carefully argued and very well written account of a balanced view on almost every aspect of the problem. Against this background, I shall limit myself to a few points which have not received sufficient attention in the discussion. ...
- On the meaning of the Japanese passive (2003)
- In her discussion of the Japanese adversative passive, Anna Wierzbicka writes (1988: 260): “The problem is extremely interesting and important both for intrinsic reasons and because of its wider methodological implications. It can be formulated like this: if one form can be used in a number of different ways, are we entitled to postulate for it a number of different meanings or should we rather search for one semantic common denominator (regarded as the MEANING of the form in question) and attribute the variety of uses to the interaction between this meaning and the linguistic or extralinguistic context?” Though it “may seem obvious” that the second stand is “methodologically preferable” (261), she takes the first position and concludes that “the Japanese passive has to be recognized as multiply ambiguous” (286). In the following I intend to show that this view is both wrong and fruitful.
- The Proto-Germanic pluperfect (2007)
- The Germanic perfect presents (Präteritopräsentien) form a past tense by adding the endings of the weak preterit to the stem of the past participle, e.g. Go. wissa ‘knew’. This is a recent formation (cf. Kortlandt 1989). We may therefore ask ourselves if we can reconstruct the earlier formation which was ousted by the weak preterit. We may also try to recover the motivation for the replacement.
- Syntax and semantics in the history of Chinese (2002)
- The philosophy of language comes in three varieties. 1. The functionalist’s view: linguistic forms are instruments used to convey meaningful elements. This is the basis of European structuralism. 2. The formalist’s view: linguistic forms are abstract structures which can be filled with meaningful elements. This is the basis of generative grammar. 3. The parasitologist’s view: linguistic forms are vehicles for the reproduction of meaningful elements. This is the view which I advocated twelve years ago in a Festschrift (1985).
- Accent and ablaut in the Vedic verb (2004)
- Most scholars nowadays reconstruct a static root present with an alternation between lengthened grade in the active singular and full grade in the active plural and in the middle. I am unhappy about this traditional methodology of loosely postulating long vowels for the proto-language. What we need is a powerful theory which explains why clear instances of original lengthened grade are so very few and restrains our reconstructions accordingly. Such a theory has been available for over a hundred years now: it was put forward by Wackernagel in his Old Indic grammar (1896: 66-68). The crucial element of his theory which is relevant in the present context is that he assumed lengthening in monosyllabic word forms, such as the 2nd and 3rd sg. active forms of the sigmatic aorist injunctive.
- Japanese wa, mo, ga, wo, na, no (2002)
- Lone Takeuchi’s stimulating book (1999) has given me an opportunity to reconsider my (unpublished) semiotactic analysis of Japanese particles [...].
- On Russenorsk (2002)
- The concept of mixed language has recently gained some popularity, to my mind for no good reason. It is unclear how a mixed language can be distinguished from the product of extensive borrowing or relexification. I therefore think that the concept only serves to provoke muddled thinking about linguistic contact and language change. Note e.g. that Munske adduces German as an example "because the author is a professor of German linguistics and because the phenomenon of language mixing can be explained better in relation to a language on which a large amount of research has been done than, for example, in relation to pidgin and creole languages" (1986: 81).