The story of pu:
The grammaticalisation in space and time of a Modern Greek complementiser

My dissertation was undertaken in the Department of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, at the University of Melbourne, under the supervision of Dr Jean Mulder, between June 1994 and December 1998; it was passed October 1999. The submitted dissertation is available for download in PDF format here, and zipped at the University of Melbourne Repository, . See also the Table of Contents.

Gradiated Summaries of thesis

Summary 1 (17 words)
"I am spending three years looking at the 1000-year history of one word in Mediaeval Greek".
Summary 2 (60 words)
I am spending three years looking at the 1000-year history of one word in Mediaeval Greek. This word is pu, and corresponds to several functions of the word that in English --- for example, I know the Trekkie that came over; He was happy that DS9 was doing so well; Now that the kiddies are gone we can watch Trek.
Summary 3 (175 words)
I investigate how the linguistic functions of the Modern Greek particle pu have spread in the past millenium, in its various dialectal forms. I consider this particular development as an example of the linguistic process known as grammaticalisation; in doing so, I compare it to similar grammaticalisations in other languages, and trying to make explicit the ways in which grammaticalisation (an internal linguistic process) interacts with external, social processes---such as diglossia.

In addition, I use this particular development to illustrate the ways in which Modern Greek has changed in the past thousand years, and how standard Modern Greek differs from the various dialects. Such work in the past has tended to concentrate on superficial, lexical changes; looking in depth at a subtle grammatical phenomenon should cast more light on the nature of these changes.

I have pursue this research using four kinds of linguistic evidence: mediaeval and early modern texts; evidence from other languages displaying similar phenomena; Greek dialect data; and written and spoken Greek data from the past two centuries.

Summary 4 (Abstract in completed thesis)
This work is concerned with tracing the historical development of the various functions of the Modern Greek connective pu. This connective has a considerable range of functions, and there have been attempts in the literature to group together these functions in a synchronically valid framework. It is my contention that the most illuminating way of regarding the functional diffusion of pu --- and of any content word --- is by looking, not only at one synchronic distribution (that of Standard Modern Greek), but at the full range of synchronic distributions in the sundry diatopic variants (dialects) of Modern Greek, and that such a discussion must be informed by the diachrony of the form.

This I attempt to do within the framework of grammaticalisation theory, whereby the development of grammatical forms is considered in the context of reanalysis and analogical extension of forms. As a diachronicist model, this allows for fluidity between function distinctions, and puts in place a historically-oriented alignment of semantic transitions which a strictly synchonicist account would miss. Work on pu has already been done in this framework; however, such work has considered the distribution of pu in Standard Greek alone, with only a brief consideration of its ancient antecedents. I contend that the picture formed of its distribution under such constraints leads to several false generalisations.

In order to arrive at a truer picture of the factors determining the development of pu, there are three facets that need to be considered in detail:

  1. its synchronic distribution in Standard Modern Greek, a variant for which extensive corpora and native speaker judgements are readily available;
  2. its distribution in the various modern dialects --- to establish the possible diversification of developments for the particle, and to ensure that one potential pathway is not privileged as a universal tendency at the expense of other, divergent developments (a problem identifiable in treatments of this topic, hitherto looking only at the standard language);
  3. a detailed investigation of the use of the etymon of the particle (hópou) in Ancient Greek. It is one of the major contentions of grammaticalisation theory that the past meaning of a particle influences its subsequent meanings. In order to test the relevance of this principle fully, it is necessary to investigate the functionality of hópou not in isolation, but in the context of the entire Ancient Greek grammatical system.

Due to time and scope constraints, I attempt only these first three tasks in this thesis. I do not attempt a detail look at areal diffusion or the mediaeval Greek semantic transitions involved, nor at the use of pu in collocation.

Summary 5: PhD proposal document

Of historical value, the PhD proposal presents what I thought the dissertation would look like at the outset.

View this page in Romanian courtesy of azoft.

Nick Nicholas, opoudjis [AT] optusnet . com . au
Created: 1997; Last revision: 2011-06-20