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HISTORICAL ROMANCE LINGUISTICS: THE RENAISSANCE OF A DISCIPLINE Roger Wright University of Liverpool I am delighted to accept the invitation to comment in this Critical Cluster of essays, but wish to express immediate bewilderment at the proposed title of "Death of a Discipline?". Even with the questionmark , this idea is completely misconceived. In fact, this discipline has been recently undergoing radical renovation, and is now one of the most interesting and vibrant fields in the whole Humanities Research area. There are two kinds of Historical Romance Linguistics, as opposed to Historical Hispanic, Italian or French linguistics. One kind involves the comparative analysis of two or more of the Romance languages, which is often illuminating; for example, as Tom Cravens (2002) has shown, studying together linguistic developments in Corsica and in the Pyrenees can illuminate changes in both areas, since an analysis which seems to be possible in one place is thereby potentially a candidate for consideration in another. This kind of comparison has always been practised; although the results are not necessarily historically significant in every case, the technique remains not only valid but regularly undertaken, for example in the papers presented at the annual Linguistic Symposia on Romance Languages in the United States. The other kind of Historical Romance Linguistics concerns the study of the language of the period when it seems reasonable to consider that there was one Romance language, before it split into the different Romance languages we know now; and in recent years, this field of research has been revolutionized. Studying the history of Romance (as opposed to the history of an individual Romance language) inevitably takes us back into the "Late Latin" period. This is inevitable because every scholar accepts now that there was no sudden change from Latin to Romance; it is not the La corónica 31.2 (Spring, 2003): 127-34 128Roger WrightIm corónica 31.2, 2003 case that everybody went to bed one night speaking Latin and woke up the next day speaking Romance. There is, therefore, a transitional period, and the more that this period is studied the longer it turns out to be. Scholars thought, once upon a time, that it was not only convenient but rational to apportion different linguistic phenomena to either Latin or Romance, and managed thereby to preserve two separate fields of study. For example, distinctively long and short vowels, synthetic passive morphology, future tenses, neuter nouns, nouns used without articles, genitive cases and accusative + infinitive constructions belonged in this perspective to Latin but not to Romance; the use ofse with passive meaning, of future tenses formed with an auxiliary , the use of articles derived from ii.i.e or ipse, the use of de plus an apparently accusative form of the noun, and of quod (later que) + finite verb constructions after verbs of saying, belonged in this perspective to Romance and not to Latin. This view had the merit of being clear, but the disadvantage of being false, since many (perhaps all) ofthe supposed distinctively "Romance " features do in fact turn up in texts that look like Latin. Even for those who instinctively prefer to keep the areas of study apart (Late Latin being studied by Latinists and Early Romance being studied by Romanists, even though the two are studying the language of exactly the same speakers), it has become clear that not everything changed at the same time. It was never a case of one language turning into another; the pronunciation seems to have developed earlier than the inflectional morphology did, for example, and even within the morphological developments the ablative case seems to have disappeared from general use before the neuter category of nouns did. But furthermore, in each individual case it is now clear that there was a long transitional period; for example, such as when the old one-word future tenses (such as facies) and the new future constructions formed with HABEO (such as faceré habes, which developed into harás) both coincided in the speech community, just as the future tenses and the voy a constructions both co-exist as two acceptable variants in Modern Spanish, without belonging to two different languages. There have been two highly salutary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 127-134
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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