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The ongoing restructuring of the system of demonstratives in Late Latin: A separation of the referential and pragmatic role of deixis

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Whereas Latin has three demonstratives, hic, iste and ille associated respectively with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person, Old French opposes two demonstratives, proximal (cist < iste) and distal (cil < ille). Why the median demonstrative iste, infrequent in Classical and Late Latin, becomes the proximal demonstrative in Old French and eliminates the Latin proximal demonstrative hic? This paper analyzes the ongoing restructuring of the ternary system into a binary system in Late Latin on the basis of a corpus of texts close to the spoken register. According to Kirsner (1979), hic and iste are strong deictics, contrary to the distal demonstrative ille. It is shown that, as iste encroaches on the preserve of hic in Late Latin, a new division of labor emerges: hic continues to be used as a referential device, whereas iste becomes a pragmatic marker of salience. This new pragmatic function of iste initiates in Late Latin a restructuring of the system of demonstratives, which reaches its endpoint in Old French. Hence, orality can be a source of linguistic change.
Journal: Langages
ISSN: 0458-726X
Issue: 208
Volume: 208
Pages: 29 - +
Publication year:2017