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84. Clitics

Stephen R. Anderson

Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Morphology, Phonology

Key-Topics formal grammars

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184236.2011.00086.x


The notion of “clitic” derives from one of the oldest problems in the study of language: how to define the “word”. Grammarians have long noted that a difficulty is posed in this area by the fact that certain elements in many languages seem to play an independent role in the grammatical structure of sentences, and thus to warrant the status of “grammatical words,” but in terms of their sound structure form parts of unitary “words” (in a distinct, phonological sense) with other “grammatical words”. Examples such as those in (1) from Homeric Greek are typical of the phenomenon. In the first of these sentences ( proclitic ) en = is grammatically an independent preposition, but forms a word together with the following athanatoisi ‘immortal’. In the second ( enclitic ) = moi is a pronominal adjunct ‘to me’ of the verb ēlthen ‘came’ but forms a word together with the preceding adjective theios ‘divine’. In both cases the independent status of the pro- or enclitic seems assured by the grammar of the sentence, but the unitary status of its combination with a host is confirmed by its phonological (especially accentual) behavior. It is this conflict between two equally well-grounded notions of “word” that brought clitics to the attention of traditional grammarians, and subsequently that of linguists. The problem as just presented is essentially a phonological one (how to get the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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