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Webinar 1 : Non-canonical inverse in Circassian and Abaza : borrowing of morphological complexity

Peter M. Arkadiev

Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences & Russian State University for the Humanities

Organized by : Languages, Dialects and Isoglosses of Anatolia, the Caucasus and Iran

Pollet Samvelian and Anaid Donabedian (Labex EFL - Inalco - Sorbonne Nouvelle)

Abstract :

In this paper I discuss a typologically peculiar inverse-like construction found in the polysynthetic ergative Circassian languages of the Northwest-Caucasian family and argue that this construction has been borrowed into Abaza belonging to a different branch of the same family. These languages possess cislocative verbal prefixes, which, in addition to marking the spatial meaning of speaker-orientation, systematically occur in polyvalent verbs when the object outranks the subject on the person hierarchy. The inverse-like use of the cislocative in Circassian differs from the “canonical” direct-inverse system in that, first, it is fully redundant since the person-role linking is achieved by means of the person markers themselves and, second, it does not occur in the basic transitive construction, featuring instead in configurations involving an indirect object both in ditransitive and bivalent intransitive verbs. I argue that the similar use of the cislocative prefix observed in Abaza is a result of pattern-borrowing from Kabardian, with which Abaza has been in intense contact, and that this borrowing has resulted in the increase of both paradigmatic and syntagmatic complexity of Abaza verbal morphology.


Peter Arkadiev, PhD Habil., is seniour researcher at the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and professor at the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow. His main research interests are linguistic typology and language contact with a focus on morphology, tense-aspect systems, and case marking in relation with other grammatical domains. He has worked extensively on Northwest Caucasian languages and on Lithuanian. His has authored almost 200 publications, including a book “Areal Typology of Prefixal Perfectivisation” (in Russian, 2015) and numerous articles in edited volumes and leading journals, and has co-edited volumes published by Mouton de Gruyter and Oxford University Press.

Related reading : Peter M. Arkadiev (2020) Borrowing non-canonical inverse between Kabardian and Abaza

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