Defining periphrasis: key notions

Brown, Dunstan; Chumakina, Marina; Corbett, Greville G.; Popova, Gergana and Spencer, Andrew. 2012. Defining periphrasis: key notions. Morphology, 22(2), pp. 233-275. ISSN 1871-5621 [Article]


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Abstract or Description

We examine the notion of ‘(inflectional) periphrasis’ within the framework of Canonical Typology, and argue that the canonical approach allows us to define a logically coherent notion of periphrasis. We propose a set of canonical criteria for inflectional morphology and a set of canonical criteria for functional syntax, that is, syntactic constructions which include functional elements and which express grammatical features. We argue that canonical periphrasis is exemplified in our theoretical space of possibilities whenever a cell in a (canonically morphological) inflectional paradigm (‘feature intersection’) is expressed by a multiword construction which respects the canonical properties of functional syntax. We compare our canonically-based approach with the approach of other authors, notably, Ackerman & Stump (2004), who argue for three sufficient conditions for a construction to be regarded as periphrastic: feature intersection, non-compositionality and distributed exponence. We argue that non-compositionality and distributed exponence, while sometimes diagnostic of periphrasis on a language-particular basis, do not constitute canonical properties of periphrasis. We also examine crucial but neglected syntactic aspects of periphrastic constructions: recursion of periphrases and headedness of periphrastic constructions. The approach we propose allows us to distinguish between constructions in actual languages which approximate the ideal of canonical periphrasis to various degrees without committing us to a categorical distinction between periphrastic and non-periphrastic constructions. At the same time we can capture the intuition that there is in some languages a distinct identifiable set of multiword constructions whose principal role is to realize grammatical features.

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English and Comparative Literature


May 2012Published
23 August 2011Accepted

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Date Deposited:

08 Nov 2013 08:09

Last Modified:

04 Jan 2020 22:41

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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