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Complements of Adjectives: A Diachronic Approach

Kersti Börjars and Nigel Vincent


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In this paper we challenge the traditional view that adjectives do not subcategorise for the grammatical function OBJ. We argue instead that the more general cross-linguistic restriction is against the assignment of accusative case outside the domain of a governing verb or preposition. This may however be violated in particular languages as we show by comparing Old Swedish, in which adjectives may unusually take accusative complements as first noted by Platzack (1982a, b) and Maling (1983), with Latin, where an accusative complement of an adjective is not possible. We then explore the diachronic developments into modern Swedish and more generally the modern Germanic languages and contrast them with the changes that have taken place in the modern Romance languages. We show that there are significant differences between the two language families in the way prepositions compensate for the loss of morphological case. We also suggest an alternative to Maling's account of the history of English near.

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