Moving towards aspect, copula and passive. The diachronic reanalysis of motion verbs in Romanian (MOV)

Project Code: PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2016-0341

Contract no.: 6/2018

Project leader: Dr. Adina Dragomirescu

Abstract. In this research, we aim to offer a unitary account for the reanalysis of Romanian motion verbs as aspectual and inceptive verbs (a (se) apuca de ‘catch > begin, be about to’, a se opri din ‘stop (somewhere) > cease’, a se porni pe ‘depart > start’, a prinde a/să ‘catch > start’, a se pune pe ‘sit > start’, a urma ‘follow > be about to’, a sta să ‘sit, lie > be about to’, a-i veni să ‘come > feel like’), as copula verbs (a ajunge ‘arrive > become’, a ieși ‘exit > become’, a se prinde ‘catch > become’, a rămâne ‘stay > remain (in a state)’, a trece de ‘pass > be considered’, a se ține ‘hold, follow > be’, a veni ‘come > be’), and as passive auxiliaries (a se afla ‘be found > be’, a veni ‘come > be’). Except for some preliminary research conducted by two of the members of the team, Adina Dragomirescu and Alexandru Nicolae, this topic has not been previously discussed with respect to Romanian. Therefore, our aim is to investigate the reanalysis process (provisionally defined as the first step of grammaticalization) using the following methodology: by analysing the corpus of old Romanian established for the Syntax of Old Romanian (Oxford, 2016) and the information in the academic dictionary of Romanian (DA/DLR), our goal is to establish: (1) the full inventory of motion verbs which have undergone this type of reanalysis, (2) the earliest attestations of the novel values acquired by the motion verbs, and (3) the identification of the switch contexts favouring the reanalysis from motion to aspect/inceptive, copula or passive. Moreover, by studying a corpus of dialectal Romanian and conducting fieldwork in Romania and in the Republic of Moldavia, we endeavour to discover which values of these verbs are preserved or attested in dialectal Romanian and whether there are other cases of this type of reanalysis in dialectal Romanian.


Research team

Project leader

Adina Dragomirescu

Dr. Adina Dragomirescu is a researcher at the “Iorgu Iordan – Alexandru Rosetti” Institute of Linguistics (and currently the director of this Institute) and an assistant professor at the Department of Linguistics, Faculty of Letters, University of Bucharest. She is a specialist in the syntax of Romanian and Romance, as shown by her work as a co-author of: Gramatica de bază a limbii române [The essential grammar of Romanian], Bucureşti, Editura Univers Enciclopedic Gold, 2010 [second edn, 2016]; The Grammar of Romanian, ed. by G. Pană Dindelegan, Oxford University Press, 2013; The Syntax of old Romanian, ed. by Gabriela Pană Dindelegan, Oxford University Press, 2016; The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages, ed. by Adam Ledgeway and Martin Maiden, Oxford University Press, 2016 etc. She is also the author of two monographs: Ergativitatea. Tipologie, sintaxă, semantică [Ergativity. Typology, syntax, semantics], Editura Universității din București, 2010 and Particularități sintactice ale limbii române în context romanic. Supinul [Specific syntactic features of Romanian within Romance. The supine], Editura Muzeului Național al Literaturii Române, 2013. In the present, her main research interests are: the grammaticalization of motion verbs, the syntax of Istro-Romanian, the syntax of old Romanian and the Slavic influence on the syntax of old Romanian.

Young researchers

Raluca Brăescu

Dr. Raluca Brăescu (PhD 2011) is a Researcher at the ‘Iorgu Iordan – Al. Rosetti’ Institute of Linguistics of the Romanian Academy and Lecturer in Romanian Language and Linguistics at the University of Bucharest, Faculty of Letters. She had a postdoctoral research project (2014-2015), entitled Degree and Intensity in Romanian. A diachronic and typological perspective, within the Romanian Academy Post-doctoral Programme The Romanian Culture and the European Cultural Models: research, synchronization, durability – SOP HRD/159/1.5/S/136077). She contributed with studies to international and national specialty collective volumes, the focus of her analysis being laid on the grammar issues: the syntax and the semantics of the adjectives, or the syntactic relations within the noun phrase (modifiers, classifiers, appositions), in synchrony and in diachrony, as can be seen from the projects she has been involved in (The Grammar of Romanian 2013, The Syntax of Old Romanian 2016, both coordinated by Gabriela Pană Dindelegan, and published at Oxford University Press). She also collaborated to the collective work Gramatica limbii române 2005/2008 [Romanian language Grammar], coordinated by Valeria Guţu Romalo, for which she was awarded the ‘Timotei Cipariu’ prize of the Romanian Academy.

Alexandru Nicolae

Dr. Alexandru Nicolae holds an MA degree (2010) in theoretical linguistics from the University of Bucharest and a PhD degree (2013) in theoretical comparative linguistics jointly awarded by the University of Bucharest ad the University of Cambridge (co-tutelle). He is currently a lecturer in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Bucharest and a researcher in the „Iorgu Iordan – Al. Rosetti” Institute of Linguistics at the Romanian Academy. He was also a postdoctoral fellow of the Romanian Academy in the project POSDRU/159/1.5/S/136077, with the individual research project A comparative and typological perspective on the syntax of Old Romanian: configurationality. In 2016, he spent 6 months in MIT’s Department of Linguistics and Philosophy as a Fulbright Senior Scholar. He also frequently spends research stages at the University of Cambridge, in various capacities: Visiting PhD student (2013), Visiting Scholar (2015), Erasmus mobility (2014, 2017). Alexandru Nicolae is interested in the morphosyntactic structure and development of Romanian from a comparative and diachronic Romance perspective. He published a single-author monograph on word order and parameter change in Romanian, devoted to the verbal domain (Ordinea constituenților în limba română, Bucharest University Press, 2015) and is preparing an English extended variant of this book for Oxford Studies in Diachronic and Historical Linguistics, co-authored a book on semantic variation and change (101 greșeli de lexic și de semantică. Cuvinte și sensuri în mișcare, Humanitas 2011), contributed as a co-author to major reference works such as The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages (OUP, 2016), The Syntax of Old Romanian (OUP, 2016), The Grammar of Romanian (OUP, 2013), and Gramatica de bază a limbii române (Univers Enciclopedic Gold, 2010, 2016) and co-edited several collective volumes with Romanian and international publishers (Comparative and Diachronic Perspectives on Romance Syntax, 2017; Sintaxa ca mod de a fi. Omagiu Gabrielei Pană Dindelegan, la aniversare, 2016; Perspective diacronice și comparative asupra limbii române, 2016; Diachronic Variation in Romanian, 2015, etc.). In 2012 Alexandru Nicolae was awarded the “Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu” Prize of the Romanian Academy for his contribution to Gramatica de bază a limbii române.

Irina Nicula Paraschiv

Dr. Irina Nicula Paraschiv is a Researcher at the “Iorgu Iordan—Al. Rosetti” Institute of Linguistics of the Romanian Academy and Teaching Assistant in the Department of Linguistics of the University of Bucharest. She has a PhD from the University of Bucharest (2011) with a thesis on the Romanian verbs of perception. She was a postdoctoral student at the “Iorgu Iordan – Al. Rosetti” Institut of Linguistics of the Romanian Academy (2014–2015).  She is one of the co-authors of The Grammar of Romanian (Oxford University Press, 2013) and of The Syntax of Old Romanian (Oxford University Press, 2016), and wrote two books: one devoted to the grammar of verbs of perception (Modalități de exprimare a percepțiilor fizice. Verbele de percepție în limba română, 2012) and one to diachronic variation in the argument structure of verbs (Variația sintactică a verbului românesc. Diacronie și tipologie, 2015).

MA Students

Adnana Boioc

Adnana-Elena Boioc is an MA student in the programme Advanced Studies in Linguistics, from the University of Bucharest. Her dissertation has been concentrating on the most visible effects of the influence of Lipovan Russian (the mother tongue of the inhabitants known as the Lipovans) on Romanian and focuses mainly on the morphological and syntactic consequences of the linguistic contact (between Romanian and Russian), a topic worthy of attention because the Romanian variety spoken there has long been under intense linguistic contact with Russian. During the past academic year (2017-2018), she has worked on topics centered around the language spoken by Lipovans, and presented her research at several national and international conferences, including, for example, a paper on the grammar of relative clauses Linguistic interference in a Romanian-Russian bilingual context. Issues in the grammar of relative clauses at 15th Workshop on Syntax, Semantics and Phonology (Barcelona, 2018), and “Blocking” vs “spreading” the case in constructions with relative secondary complement. An experimental approach at The 17th International Conference of the Department of Linguistics (Bucharest, 2017). Her research is based on empirical data collected from the Lipovans’ community from Dobruja. She established contacts with linguistic informants from Dobruja area, conducting fieldwork sessions to analyze the linguistic behaviour of bilingual speakers, and record an oral corpus.

Mădălina Botez

Mădălina Botez is an MA student in the programme Advanced Studies in Linguistics, from the University of Bucharest. Her dissertation focuses on processes of specialization and pragmaticalization, regarding the Romanian temporal adverbs acuș, acuși and acușica. This analysis highlights the different meaning of this adverb in Moldavia in contrast with the varieties spoken in Walachia. She presented a part of her research at The International Symposium on Linguistics in Bucharest (Seventh Edition, May 18-20, 2018). She also studied the perfective auxiliary o in the Moldavian variety (with Adina Dragomirescu) and Romanian verbs without nomination (with Adnana Boioc and Ștefania Costea). Her main interests are morphology, syntax, dialectology, phonetics and phonology.

Ștefania Costea

Ștefania Costea is an MA student in the programme Advanced Studies in Linguistics, from the University of Bucharest. Her dissertation focuses mainly on the syntactic consequences of the linguistic contact (between Romanian and Russian) that could be found in the variety of Romanian spoken in the Republic of Moldova. During the past academic year (2017-2018), she has presented a series of papers regarding her subject at international conferences, such as Verb Movement in Moldovan Daco-Romanian: Romance Heritage or Russian Influence? at The 17th International Conference of the Department of Linguistics (Bucharest, 24-25th of November, 2017), and Preverbal subjects in Moldovan Daco-Romanian direct and indirect wh-interrogatives at The 46th Cambridge Romance Linguistics Seminar (Cambridge, 5-6th of January, 2018). So far, she has carried out three fieldwork sessions in the Republic of Moldova, recording spontaneous conversations with native speakers of Moldovan Daco-Romanian, that could shed a light on some syntactic phenomena, as well as on the process of grammaticalisation involving a series of structures (e. g., verbs expressing movement).

Project development


June 8 2018 – Adina Dragomirescu, “The grammaticalization of motion verbs in Romanian. An overview”, a talk given at the Workshop on Syntax and Language Variation, University of Utrecht.

Research stages

June 27–July 3 2018 – Adnana Boioc, Raluca Brăescu, Ștefania Costea, Adina Dragomirescu, Alexandru Nicolae, Irina Nicula Paraschiv – Research stage at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.