Cognitive foundations of the Old Babylonian iparras

Andrason A. (2012)


The iparras-one of the Old Babylonian (OB) verbal formations-is employed in three main functions: it denotes present-future events, aspectually imperfective past activities, and various modal situations. As maintained by cognitive linguistics, grammar is a conceptualization of the speaker experience; hence, grammatical categories are expected to originate in semantically transparent inputs and to be cognitively plausible. In accordance with this principle, one assumes that the OB iparras has similarly derived from a lexically transparent input which has cognitively motivated all the functions of the gram. Consequently, the shape of the construction (i.e., iC 1aC 2C 2aiuC 3) must somehow reflect a grammatical conceptualization of the idea of contemporaneity-futurity, imperfectivity (both frequentativity-habituality and continuity-progressivity) and modality. This article demonstrates that the aspectual, temporal and modal values of the gram directly derive from its morphological foundation, viz. reduplication. First, the reduplication is a semantically transparent expression of 'plurality' (clearly perceived in the meaning of the D stem uparras and in certain adjectival patterns), overtly conveying iterative ideas of continuity and frequentativity of an event. These two basic senses are subsequently common sources of the imperfective path, a functional trajectory whereby focusing locutions develop into imperfectives (as the iparras in the past time frame), and afterwards into simple tenses, especially into presents and futures (as the iparras with the non-past temporal reference). Second, because of the universal proximity between habituality (a stage on the imperfective path) and ability, at the moment where an iterative expression develops a clear habitual value it can additionally acquire a modal function of ability, subsequently triggering an evolution referred to as modal path, i.e. a development from agent oriented modalities such as mental andor physical ability (still available in the nominal pattern of habitual occupations, parrs) through root possibility and intentionality to epistemic and subjunctive modalities (as illustrated by various modal uses of the iparras). © 2012 The author.

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