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Orphan prefixes and the grammaticalization of aspect in South Slavic

Stephen M. Dickey
E-mail: smd@ku.edu
Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Kansas

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Abstract: This paper establishes the term ORPHAN PREFIX for a Slavic prefix that no longer shares a dominant spatial meaning with its cognate preposition. Most Slavic prefixes do share such a dominant spatial meaning with their cognate prepositions, cf., e.g., the Russian prefix v- and preposition v, both meaning ‘into.’ Orphan prefixes appear to be an important component of many Slavic aspectual systems. However, in most Slavic languages there is at most one prefix that has lost the semantic connection to its cognate preposition and come to function primarily as a grammatical marker of perfectivity. Only three Slavic prefixes are in fact to be consid-ered orphan prefixes, and each only in some Slavic languages. A first case is Bulgarian iz- ‘out,’ as its cognate preposition iz is no longer used in the spatial meaning ‘out of.’ The most extreme case is Bulgarian po-, which no longer shares the spatial meaning of SURFACE CONTACT with the preposition po to any significant degree. Another important case is the hy-brid prefix s-/z- in Slovene, which arose due to the phonetic coalescence of sъ- ‘together, down from’ and jьz- ‘out’ after the fall of the jers and which as a perfectivizing prefix has lost its semantic connection to s ‘with, down from’ and iz ‘out of’ to varying degrees in Slovene. This paper presents an overview of perfectivizing prefixation in three South Slavic languages, Bulgarian, Croatian and Slovene. It is argued that though the loss of a dominant spatial mean-ing is necessary for a given prefix to be grammaticalized as a purely perfectivizing prefix in an individual Slavic language, this process is neither predictable nor necessary for the mainte-nance of a Slavic-style aspect system (cf. standard Croatian, where no orphan prefix exists and no such grammaticalization has taken place). Building on this line of thinking, the paper argues that the facts from South Slavic support recent views on grammaticalization, that there is no “grammaticalization” process per se, only semantic changes that lead to grammaticaliza-tion as an epiphenomenal result.
Keywords:
South Slavic languages, prefixation, verbal aspect, grammaticalization,
Article data in other languages: Croatian