This article identifies and illustrates a number of significant tendencies relating to the evolution of perfect formations within the insular Celtic languages. A recurring pattern is discerned by which perfects emerge, are grammaticalised within the verbal system, extend their functional range and are eventually replaced by neological constructions. It is shown that in their functional development, perfect constructions tend to progress from the indication of state (or else perfectivity), to the marking of anteriority, to the expression of simple action. In the process of replacement, there is a propensity for perfects to be initially ousted from their primary function and to be reduced to the marking of previously subsidiary functions. The evolution of perfect formations within Celtic also illustrates the fundamental relationship between the perfect category and the passive voice: there are some indications that the functional extension of the perfect is particularly liable to take place in the passive and perhaps in future passive or non-actual contexts. Furthermore, a structural symbiosis is identified within Celtic between these two categories: those languages (and language stages) which develop perfects based upon the verbal noun also employ verbal-nominal passives, while those which develop perfects constructed on the verbal adjective tend to develop verbal-adjectival passives.
|Publication status||Published - 2007|