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In this chapter the editors introduce the book and its aim of showing how the study of comparative and historical data from the Romance languages can illuminate general linguistics. After a brief presentation of the volume and its structure, the editors reflect on how their personal experiences of working with data from the Romance languages have led them to reflect on wider issues in general ling uistics. Recurrent themes in their work have been, respectively, morphosyntactic change (Ledgeway) and sound change and its morphological consequences (Maiden). Among the topics whose theoretical implications are explored are: parametric variation, universals, typological variation, pro-drop, word order, linguistic theory and philology, complementizer systems, the interaction of phonological and morphological factors in morphologization, the problem of defining a language family, and the perils of ‘standard language bias’ in the practice of historical linguistics. While these may appear a quite heterogeneous set of issues, they are treated in a way that prompts some major shared fundamental conclusions, in particular that Romance linguistics can make its most powerful contributions to general linguistics when Romance linguists exploit to the maximum the extraordinary wealth of historical and comparative data which the Romance languages and dialects offer them.
This chapter uses data from a range of Romance languages to illustrate the different definitions of the notion of suppletion in the linguistic literature, and to offer a typology of suppletion (notable the difference between ‘incursive’ and phonologically induced suppletion). Suppletion may be most usefully viewed simply as an extreme contrast between unity of meaning, on the one hand, and disunity of the forms expressing that meaning, on the other. The typology and distribution of Romance suppletions is described, for example, from the numeral system, from the system of marking comparatives in adjectives, from the inflexional morphology of personal pronouns, from the inflexional morphology or verbs, nouns, and adjectives. While the Romance languages provide cross-linguistically typical illustrations of suppletion in its different manifestations, the Romance data are particularly thought-provoking with regard to, among other things, (i) the particular role of synonymy between lexemes in determining the emergence of incursive suppletion in diachrony; (ii) the role of existing abstract patterns of alternation in providing ‘templates’ for the paradigmatic distribution of suppletive alternants; and (iii) the role of phonological resemblance as a determinant of incursive suppletion.
The Romance languages and dialects constitute a treasure trove of linguistic data of profound interest and significance. Data from the Romance languages have contributed extensively to our current empirical and theoretical understanding of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, and historical linguistics. Written by a team of world-renowned scholars, this Handbook explores what we can learn about linguistics from the study of Romance languages, and how the body of comparative and historical data taken from them can be applied to linguistic study. It also offers insights into the diatopic and diachronic variation exhibited by the Romance family of languages, of a kind unparalleled for any other Western languages. By asking what Romance languages can do for linguistics, this Handbook is essential reading for all linguists interested in the insights that a knowledge of the Romance evidence can provide for general issues in linguistic theory.