Iranian-Armenian language contact in and before the 5th century CE: an investigation into pattern replication and societal multilingualism


Ressource 1Download: Meyer_DPhil_thesis_deposit.pdf (3449.11 [Ko])
State: Public
Version: After imprimatur
License: All rights reserved
Serval ID
PhD thesis: a PhD thesis.
Iranian-Armenian language contact in and before the 5th century CE: an investigation into pattern replication and societal multilingualism
Meyer Robin
van Lint Theo Maarten
Tucker Elizabeth
Institution details
University of Oxford
Publication state
Issued date
This study provides new insights into the historical language contact between Classical Armenian and West Middle Iranian, specifically Parthian. Next to an up-to-date account of known lexical, morphological, and phraseological Iranian loans in Armenian, the discussion focuses on one major and three minor syntactic patterns which, it is argued, are the result of pattern replication.
The major pattern, the Classical Armenian periphrastic perfect, has previously been the focus of numerous papers owing to its unusual construction: while intransitive verbs construe with nominative subjects and an optional form of the copula in subject agreement, transitive verbs exhibit genitive agents, accusative objects and an optional copula in a invariable 3.Sg. form. Based on a discussion of morphosyntactic alignment patterns in general, and of Armenian and West Middle Iranian in particular, it is shown that previous accounts cannot satisfactorily explain the syntax of the perfect. In a new approach, it is argued that Armenian exhibits tripartite morphosyntactic alignment as the result of ‘copying’ and adapting the ergative alignment pattern of the West Middle Iranian past tense. This analysis is supported both by the historical morphology of the perfect participle and by a corpus analysis of five major works of Armenian 5th-century historiography.
The minor patterns—ezāfe-like nominal relative clauses, subject resumption and switch-reference marking using the anaphoric pronoun Arm. ink‘n, and the quotative use of Arm. (e)t‘ē—are equally linked to parallel constructions in West Middle Iranian, which may have served as syntactic models for their Armenian counterparts.
The final part of the study discusses the Armenian–Iranian relationship from a language contact point of view and, making use of historical, epigraphic, and literary sources, proposes that a superstrate shift of the Parthian-speaking ruling class of Armenia to Armenian as their primary language best explains the amount of Parthian linguistic material and patterns in Armenian.
language contact, pattern replication, multilingualism, morphosyntactic alignment
Open Access
Create date
02/03/2021 18:48
Last modification date
02/03/2021 18:49
Usage data