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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The extension of weak u verb forms in medieval Gallo-Romance Bradley, Diane Margaret


The origin of weak u vocalism in verbal systems of the Romance language group has never been completely clear. The form is rare in C.L. and its extension is most usually attributed to an -ui -utum correspondence which arose and spread in V.L., although the reasons for and mechanisms of this development have remained uncertain. Documentary evidence supporting the extension of weak u forms starts with the time of the Roman Empire, but many gaps remain in our knowledge and these are inadequately filled by the sparse records of early Romance. This study seeks to clarify the situation in two ways. Initially it returns to the Latin roots of weak u development and, from this investigation, it appears that the dedi form was at least as important as the -ui verbs in causing the spread of u vocalism. It then follows the many ramifications in the Romance tongues, taking a particular interest in regional and dialectal diversity. The synthesis of the varied phonetic and analogical repatternings available on a wide scale provides the basis for a more detailed investigation of the French, Franco-Provencal and Occitan zones. Regarding the medieval state of development of the Gallo-Romance area itself, influential grammarians have usually based their conclusions primarily on literary sources in describing the language, although charters have not been excluded. Debate has centred on whether weak u forms could have evolved phonetically from Latin and, if so, how, or on whether analogy played a decisive role. However, in recent years, much non-literary medieval material preserved in French archives has been published for the first time; and this study, while acknowledging the insights offered by former work, has taken full advantage of this new situation in order to undertake a re-examination of forms attested in Gallo-Romance, using charters as the primary source. The accuracy of information about chronological and dialectal variation is better assured by such a method and a frequency count is included as an additional indicator of influential forms. The examples thus collected and classified allow patterns and trends present in the language to emerge, and these suggest that the progression of weak u spread was gradual and uneven in Gallo- Romance, much of it probably being analogical. As a preterite form, u vocalism obtained a foothold only in certain northern zones, although the power of these areas was such that its diffusion as part of the future national standard language was assured.

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