Bert Cornillie is associate professor of Spanish linguistics at KU Leuven. His main research interests are historical and interactional linguistics, with a focus on modality and complementation patterns. He obtained his PhD in 2004 on modal (semi-)auxiliaries and has published in international journals and volumes on discourse-grammatical topics. Bert is currently the president of the Linguistic Society of Belgium and the secretary of the Societas Linguistica Europaea.
Latin Influence on The Languages of Europe and The Pace of Syntactic Elaboration
This lecture addresses the competition between vernacular languages and Latin, identifying sources of syntactic change and examining the role of sociolinguistic motivation. The focus is on the complex role played by translators, and the syntactic creativity that may occur as a result of calquing. The case study is concerned with the auxiliation/grammaticalization of amenazar (Spanish), dreigen (Dutch), threaten (English) and ameaçar (Portuguese). Reference is also made to Catalan, Polish and German equivalents. I show that the subjective reading of ‘threaten’, expressing a prediction on the basis of some kind of evidence, is a Latin calque, and that the syntactic creativity or syntactic elaboration starts from this calque. Now, the pace of the constructional change from ‘threaten’ + NP to ‘threaten’ + INF is different from one language to another. Spanish amenazar grammaticalizes into an auxiliary during the Renaissance of the 15th and 16th century. In the case of Dutch, by contrast, only in the Golden Age of the 17th century do writers start to use dreigen ‘threaten’ as an auxiliary. Finally, English develops the auxiliary one century later than the Dutch one. The chronological differences are explained on the basis of the cultural and linguistic elaborations typical of the Golden centuries, which vary from one nation to another.