In this paper the diachronic development of German nomina actionis is investigated within the framework of the Theory of Naturalness (Mayerthaler 1981; Wurzel 1989; Dressler / Mayerthaler / Panagl / Wurzel 1987). The historical development of German is characterized by a typological shift from a synthetic system to a more analytical one (Ramat 1986), with a gradual loss of the inflectional endings and the renovation of its morphosyntactic properties (which of course entails word formation processes). According to Natural Morphology, the historical development of a language results from ‘naturalness conflicts’ among different linguistic levels producing local optimizations: in this way a more ‘natural’ structure on a certain level will be a more ‘marked’ one on the others. From a morphological point of view a ‘natural’ derivate should be iconic, uniform, transparent and typologically suited to the language system. So, to be considered ‘natural’ the historical development of German nomina actionis should have been characterized by an increase in the number of derivates which obey these principles. Considering the typological transition of German and the great variety of Old High German morphological strategies to build nomina actionis (different thematic vowels and suffixes), compared to the more coherent status of Modern German, where -ung derivates prevail, my hypothesis is that some trends towards naturalness should have operated to give the present day situation. Analyzing a corpus consisting of Old High German, Middle High German and Present-day German nomina actionis, the development of this nominal category is discussed and its shift towards a higher morphological naturalness is demonstrated.

(2010). Naturalezza e mutamento linguistico: il caso dei nomina actionis in tedesco [journal article - articolo]. In LINGUISTICA E FILOLOGIA. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10446/838

Naturalezza e mutamento linguistico: il caso dei nomina actionis in tedesco

2010

Abstract

In this paper the diachronic development of German nomina actionis is investigated within the framework of the Theory of Naturalness (Mayerthaler 1981; Wurzel 1989; Dressler / Mayerthaler / Panagl / Wurzel 1987). The historical development of German is characterized by a typological shift from a synthetic system to a more analytical one (Ramat 1986), with a gradual loss of the inflectional endings and the renovation of its morphosyntactic properties (which of course entails word formation processes). According to Natural Morphology, the historical development of a language results from ‘naturalness conflicts’ among different linguistic levels producing local optimizations: in this way a more ‘natural’ structure on a certain level will be a more ‘marked’ one on the others. From a morphological point of view a ‘natural’ derivate should be iconic, uniform, transparent and typologically suited to the language system. So, to be considered ‘natural’ the historical development of German nomina actionis should have been characterized by an increase in the number of derivates which obey these principles. Considering the typological transition of German and the great variety of Old High German morphological strategies to build nomina actionis (different thematic vowels and suffixes), compared to the more coherent status of Modern German, where -ung derivates prevail, my hypothesis is that some trends towards naturalness should have operated to give the present day situation. Analyzing a corpus consisting of Old High German, Middle High German and Present-day German nomina actionis, the development of this nominal category is discussed and its shift towards a higher morphological naturalness is demonstrated.
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Semplicini, Chiara
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