The Historical Syntax of South Slavic



project description



publications & talks





Project Description


The project investigates syntactic change in the history of South Slavic. We have so far focused on the following areas: (i) clausal pronominal clitics; (ii) linearization of the Tense Phrase; (iii) determiners, and (iv) aspect.


We have discovered (Pancheva 2005) that clausal pronominal clitics in the history of Bulgarian have undergone a change from post-verbal to second-position, and that this change was already under way in Old Church Slavonic. Establishing that a second-position clitic system developed within Medieval South Slavic challenges the generally held assumption that second-position cliticization in the modern Slavic languages is directly inherited from Proto-Indo-European. Even more importantly, the project appears to have documented the first case of such a historical change for any language. Several studies describe a historical loss of second-position clitics, but there have been no examples of an emergence of a second-position clitic system.


Concerning the interaction between the syntax of the clause and the grammar of clitics, results suggest that already Old Church Slavonic was undergoing a switch in the linearization of the Tense Phrase (TP), from head-final to head-initial (Pancheva 2008, 2009b). One factor triggering this change was likely a change in the syntax of Negation, which started to attract the tensed verb. With Negation preceding the Verb Phrase (VP), the tensed verb would be linearized before the VP as well. We suggest that the resulting change in the linearization of T with respect to its complement VP then triggered the syntactic reanalysis of clitics from post-verbal to second-position ones. Clitics were attracted by a feature of T, and when T changed its linear order with respect to the VP, so did the clitics. We further discuss (Pancheva 2009a) whether the prosodic alignment of clitics is lexically specified or is a consequence of the syntactic structure.


The project has also yielded findings concerning historical change in the syntax and meaning of the determiner oba ‘two/both’ (Łazorczyk and Pancheva 2005, 2008). Whereas oba is a distributive determiner in all of the modern Slavic languages that have the form, we show that in Old Church Slavonic it was a numeral ‘two’ with a definiteness presupposition but no distributive meaning. The findings suggest that the Proto-Indo-European determiner *ambho:, from which oba, English both, German beide, etc., are derived, likely did not have a distributive component, and that the distributive function of oba, both, beide, etc. was a later, parallel development in the individual language subgroups. If this is indeed so, this suggests that a change from ‘two’ to ‘both’ is a natural development for grammars.


Finally, we have studied the secondary imperfective in Old Church Slavonic and suggested that it was not a viewpoint aspect marker, as commonly suggested for its counterpart in the modern Slavic languages, but aktionsart maker of atelicity (Łazorczyk 2007, 2008).


In addition to the theoretical contributions, the project also aims to create the first morphologically annotated, electronically available, chronological database of medieval South Slavic texts. The corpus will facilitate the study of the historical and comparative grammar of the Slavic languages by making data collection faster and more accurate, by allowing grammatically-based searches, and by making possible the application of quantitative methods to linguistic analysis.





The project was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS-0418581) on “The Historical Syntax of Medieval South Slavic” for the period September 2004-August 2008.





Roumyana Pancheva (Linguistics and Slavic Languages and Literatures, USC), Principal Investigator

Agnieszka Łazorczyk (Linguistics, USC)

Jelena Krivokapic (Linguistics, USC)

Milena Gueorguieva (Comparative Literature, USC)

Zlatina Sandalska (Slavic Languages and Literatures, USC)

Mila Nazyrova (Slavic Languages and Literatures, USC)

Yulia Minkova (Slavic Languages and Literatures, USC)

Nancy Louie (Linguistics, USC)

Allison Pultz (Slavic Languages and Literatures, USC)

William Gunn (Slavic Languages and Literatures, USC)

Janine Kagle (Occidental College)

Inna Schmul (Slavic Languages and Literatures, USC)

Programming help by Stefano Vegnaduzzo is gratefully acknowledged.



Publications & Talks


Pancheva, R. (2009a). “Directionality of Cliticization: Comments on Mavrogiorgos’ ‘C-T and the EPP: Deriving Enclisis in Modern Greek’” In C. Halpert, J. Hartman, and D. Hill (eds.) Proceedings of the 2007 Workshop in Greek Syntax and Semantics at MIT. MITWPL 57, 155-170.


Pancheva, R. (2009b). “Factors Contributing to Historical Change in the Linearization of T in Old Church Slavonic”. Invited talk at the panel on Formal Approaches to Slavic Diachrony at the meeting of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies, Cambridge, UK, March 28-30, 2009.


Pancheva, R. (2008). “Head-Directionality of TP in Old Church Slavonic” In A. Antonenko, J. Bailyn, and C. Bethin (eds.) Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics: The Stony Brook Meeting, 2007. Michigan Slavic Publications, Ann Arbor. 313-332.


Łazorczyk, A. and R. Pancheva. (2009). “From “Two” to “Both”: Historical Changes in the Syntax and Meaning of Oba in Slavic” In R.P. Leow, H. Campos, D. Lardiere (eds.) Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition. Georgetown University Press.


Łazorczyk, A. (2008). “Secondary Imperfective as Atelicizer in Old Church Slavonic and Modern Bulgarian” LSA, Chicago, January 2008.


Łazorczyk, A. (2007). “Secondary Imperfective in Old Church Slavonic and Modern Bulgarian” Proceedings of the Fourth Graduate Colloquium on Slavic Linguistics, Ohio Slavic Papers.


Łazorczyk, A. and R. Pancheva. (2005). “Historical Changes in the Syntax and Meaning of Oba ‘Two/Both’ in Slavic” 17th International Conference on Historical Linguistics, University of Wisconsin – Madison, July 31-Aug 5, 2005.


Pancheva, R. (2006). “The Position of Tense in the Old Church Slavonic Clause” Inaugural conference of the Slavic Linguistics Society, Indiana University, September 8-10, 2006.


Pancheva, R. (2005). “The Rise and Fall of Second-Position Clitics”, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 23 (1), 103-167.


Pancheva, R. (2004). “Balkan Possessive Clitics: The Problem of Case and Category”, In O. M. Tomić (ed.). Balkan Syntax and Semantics. John Benjamins. 175-219.