A Surprise in the Past: The Historical Origins of the Catalan go-past



Crosslinguistically, the development of the verb go into a future tense is a common path of grammaticalization. In contrast, the past meaning of the go-periphrasis in Catalan is unexpected. Detges (2004) claims that the process of grammaticalization of the Catalan periphrastic perfect went from inchoative to foregrounding to past. We compare data from the Corpus informatitzat del Català antic with modern Sicilian, where a similar go-periphrasis is used with a foregrounding function that resembles that of Old Catalan. This comparison confirms a foregrounding usage but fails to support the origin in an inchoative usage. We propose that the grammaticalization from movement to foregrounding does not require an intermediate inchoative stage, but that it rather results from a modal implicature of surprise and unexpectedness that was associated with the construction. Indeed, the function of go to foreground and express surprise or noteworthiness can be inferentially viewed as movement away from the speaker’s expectations. Under this usage, Catalan go-periphrasis was employed to refer to ‘surprising’ events that took place in the past. Once this additional meaning was lost, the reference to the past was generalized beyond the implicature.


grammaticalization, mirativity, motion verb, past perfective, Old Catalan, Sicilian


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