Network Core Mechanisms of Exponence

Karinš, A. Krišjanis (1994)


(= Surrey 53) An argument against the claim that avoidance of syncretism is motivating factor in linguistic change. In Latvian, the 2sg present tense verb ending -i has been lost in some verb classes, a change which is inexplicable as a result solely of sound change. Endzelins (1922) claimed this was to disambiguate the homophony between this form and the 2sg past tense, also with the ending -i. The loss of -i was then analogically extended to verb classes which, by virtue of stem alternations, lacked the present~past syncretism in the first place. However, the loss of -i leads to syncretism of 2sg and 3rd person (Endzelins 1922 argued that this latter syncretism was preferable, since it could be disambiguated by pronouns). Also, there does not appear to have been a corresponding elimination of tense syncretism in the 1sg, which occurs in some verb classes. It is concluded that avoidance of syncretism cannot be seen as anything more than a general tendency, one which is readily contradicted.

authorKarinš, A. Krišjanis
titleFunctionalism and linguistic change in Latvian verb morphology
journalLinguistica Baltica


    author = {Karinš, A. Krišjanis},
    year = {1994},
    title = {Functionalism and linguistic change in Latvian verb morphology},
    journal = {Linguistica Baltica},
    volume = {3},
    pages = {109-120},
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