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Linguistica Uralica cover
Linguistica Uralica
ISSN 1736-7506 (Electronic)
ISSN 0868-4731 (Print)

Syncretism in the Central Veps Local Case System; pp. 250-260

Full article in PDF format | doi:10.3176/lu.2010.4.02

Riho Grünthal

Syncretism and the overlapping of morphologically distinct units or entire categories have different influence on morphologically complex and less complex forms. In principle, both syncretism and polysemy corrupt the ideal distribution of morphological units and the balance between form and ­function. However, compared to polysemy, the influence of syncretism is more dramatic because it decreases the efficiency and grammatical applicability of individual forms, whereas polysemy extends the functional capacity of inflectional categories. In Veps, there is relatively little syncretism in synchronic case paradigms. Both noun and verb inflection are based on regular suffixal ­morphology. Unlike in the southern Finnic languages, such as Vote, Estonian and Livonian, syncretism does not influence the most frequent case categories in Veps. There are certain lexical types that display morphonological alternation but there are no inflectional categories that would be distinguished by means of flexive morphology and stem alternation. However, in certain cases syncretism extends beyond those categories that are predictable as there are some examples of accidental inflectional homonymy between the partitive singular and nominative plural. More generally speaking, the historical development of the Veps local case system is strongly affected by syncretism. This article focuses on syncretism in the western varieties of Central Veps, which are slightly different from the other local varieties of the given language area. Those categories that are affected by syncretism will be examined in the light of paradigmatic overlapping and syntactic compensation. The assessment of syncretism from a functional perspective is based on the assumption that paradigmatic identity between distinct categories is not always realized at a syntactic level.

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