Feature-geometry and diachrony
The development of the subject clitics in Cushitic and Romance
Several East and South Cushitic languages of East Africa have a preverbal series of subject markers. They are generally clitics, sometimes phonologically independent words. Like the subject clitics of many Romance varieties, these markers display characteristic restrictions: their paradigm is often incomplete, or the same morpheme may be shared by two or more persons. In this article, the subject markers of Cushitic are first compared with the Romance subject clitics, and then analyzed in the light of the feature geometry of pronominal systems (Harley & Ritter 2002b). It is argued that feature-geometric accounts are amenable to a diachronic interpretation, and that subject markers, rather than deriving directly from independent personal pronouns, arise out of the piecemeal addition of pronominal features from a minimal system. In so doing, they move along a possibly universal path of development, whose different stages are neatly exemplified in Cushitic.
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