13 Sep


Introduction to the Database of the Inflectional Morphology of the Romance Verb

This Database has been constructed in connection with the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research project Autonomous Morphology in Diachrony: comparative evidence from the Romance languages (AH/D503396/1), carried out at Oxford University first in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, and latterly in the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, between October 2006 and December 2010.

The Database offers a representation of the inflectional paradigms of the verb for some 80 Romance varieties. The data may be viewed by language variety, by lexical verb (labelled by etymon), by grammatical category, or by combinations thereof.

Table of Contents

  1. Nature and purpose of the Database
  2. Origins of the data, and coverage
  3. Geographical locations
  4. Transcription and special symbols
  5. Organization
  6. Using the Database
  7. People and contacts
  8. References

The Nature and Purpose of the Database

The Database is an interpretation of a wide range of published descriptions of Romance verb morphology. It does not purport to reproduce or supplant such descriptions: rather, the data here offered are our attempt to give an account of what others have said about the verb system for each variety described. The act of interpretation is inherently problematic (see particularly our remarks below under ‘Origins of the data, and coverage’ and ‘Transcription and special symbols’), and users who wish to pursue points of particular interest in our data for any given variety should unfailingly consult the reference or references cited for that variety. Our aim is simply to offer to Romance linguists (and morphologists in general) a tool for the comparative analysis of the inflectional morphology of the Romance verb. This Database constitutes the most comprehensive available unified representation of this major subsystem of Romance inflectional morphology, presenting the constituent word-forms of the Romance verb system, and allowing (among other things) observation of distributional patterns of allomorphy and neutralization.

The Database sets out what are conventionally regarded as the ‘synthetic’ word-forms of the inflectional paradigm of the verb in a wide range of Romance languages. ‘Analytic’ constructions, for example of the type ‘auxiliary have or be + past participle’ present in varying measure in all Romance languages (cf., e.g., Ledgeway 2011:452-57), are not specified here, although their component word-forms may be. We are well aware that the boundary between the ‘synthetic’ and the ‘analytic’ is not always clear (see Ledgeway ib. 385), and that the components of apparent analytic structures show varying degrees of ‘fusion’. In addition, Romance languages show varying degrees of fusion of verb-forms with (clitic) subject pronouns: in Romansh and Ladin varieties, for example, the verb system has a set of special forms with phonologically reduced word-final endings when used in interrogative constructions or in certain other types of construction usually requiring syntactic inversion of subject and verb (see, e.g., Alton and Vittur 1968:47f.; Minach and Gruber 1972:76-80); and for many Gallo-Romance and northern Italo-Romance varieties it could be argued (e.g., Rizzi 1986) that what are conventionally regarded as ‘obligatory subject clitics’ are analysable as part of the inflectional morphology of the verb. The (current) limitation of the forms in this Database to what are conventionally regarded as ‘synthetic’ word-forms is dictated not by any particular theoretical stance, but both by tradition and by present practical limitations.

This is a database of paradigms representing the various types of inflectional verb morphology. Existing descriptions rarely state how many verbs belong to any given inflectional type. This means, of course, that the Database can have little to say about the productivity of the types. Romance linguists know, however, that it is usually the verbs which directly continue the Latin inflectional class called ‘first conjugation’ which constitute the productive class, notably in respect of their inflectional endings; another historically productive inflection class is that which continues the Latin fourth conjugation, notably in Daco-Romance (see, e.g., Maiden 2011:212n76).


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