Vol. 1 (2024)
Papers and essays

The long history of a syncretism in Italo-Romance and Ladin verb morphology

Martin Maiden
University of Oxford

Published 2024-04-09


  • syncretism,
  • morphomes,
  • borrowing,
  • Italian,
  • Ladin


This study traces the history of a syncretism in the verb morphology of two Romance varieties. It explores the origin of a morphomic pattern of identity between the second person singular present indicative and some cells of the present subjunctive. It shows that this syncretism was originally an accidental effect of sound change, but that subsequent morphological changes replicated that pattern. It then explores a peculiar morphological change which happened almost ‘overnight’ in the recent history of the Val Badia dialect of Ladin, and argues that the only plausible explanation is a ‘calque’, involving the redistribution of native inflexional material in imitation of the aforementioned morphomic pattern in standard Italian. The findings of this study suggest that speakers prefer predictability of patterning over signalling of grammatical meaning and that, most surprisingly, morphomic patterns can actually be borrowed from one language into another.