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Patterns of reduction in Romance demonstrative systems


  • Silvia Terenghi Utrecht University



Demonstratives, Romance languages, Morphology, Person features, Syntax, Semantics, Complexity


Demonstrative forms encode deictic features, which define the location of a referent in the external world in relation to a deictic centre. The encoding of deictic oppositions is however not diachronically stable, most commonly leading to poorer demonstrative systems over time: this paper explores the patterns of reduction attested by Romance (at face value) ternary demonstrative systems. Assuming that demonstrative forms are derived by person features, an account for such semantic reductions is proposed in terms of feature loss. More concretely, it is argued that change can be captured by a combination of featural and structural factors: the former determine computationally complex person(-related) categories, the latter determine which feature may be lost to ease said computational complexity.