- The Varying Role of po- in the Grammaticalization of Slavic Aspectual Systems: Sequences of Events, Delimitatives, and German Language Contact
- Journal of Slavic Linguistics
- Slavica Publishers
- Volume 19, Number 2, Summer - Fall 2011
- pp. 175-230
- View Citation
- Additional Information
This article presents a comparative analysis of three interrelated phenomena: the use of imperfective verbs in sequences of events in Czech, Slovak, Sorbian, Slovene, and BCS; the use of po- delimitatives in sequences of events in East Slavic, Polish, and Bulgarian; the semantic nature of the prefix po- in the individual Slavic languages. The use of imperfective verbs in sequences of events in the western languages and the use of po- delimitatives in the eastern languages are two alternative ways of aspectually coding atelic predicates in narratives. The article makes two main arguments in this connection. The first is that the use of imperfective verbs in sequences of events in the western languages has been retained (and perhaps strengthened) due to German language contact, whereas the use of po- delimitatives for such atelic predicates represents an innovation in those languages that did not undergo significant amounts of such German language contact. The second is that the lack of the development of po- into an important perfectivizing prefix in the western languages is likewise due in part to German language contact, as po- was at various times used to calque German be- in its surface-contact and transitive meanings as well as ver- in its meaning of change of state; such calques contributed to the stabilization of po- as a lexical prefix in the western languages. The retarding effect of German language contact on the western languages whereby imperfective verbs remained acceptable in sequences of events, and po- did not become a major perfectivizing prefix, is analyzed as the result of a process of "replica preservation," as opposed to the more commonly discussed process of "replica change" described by Heine and Kuteva (2005).