Modern Irish

Shisha-Halevy, A., 2010. Converbs in Welsh and Irish: A Note. In Kelten am Rhein: Akten des dreizehnten Internationalen Keltologiekongressesvon LVR Landesmuseum Bonn (Autor), Verein von Altertumsfreunden im Rheinlande Mainz. Verlag Philipp von Zabern, pp. 270–277.Abstract

The converb, in its least specific and sharp resolution, is used to mean ‘adverbial verb form’, or ‘verbal adverb’ (see the subtitle of Haspelmath and König 1995). Mostly and for long it has been known, in the description of various languages, as ‘gerund’. Definition of the converb reveal an underlying blurredness: Haspelmath (1995: 3ff.): ‘Non-finite verb-form whose main function is to mark adverbial subordination’; Nedjalkov’s (1995) is more sophisticated: ‘a verb-form which depends syntactically on another verb-form but is not its syntactic actant, that is does not realize its semantic valences’. (This is surely unsatisfactory, for the converb is arguably actantial in cases like ‘start walking’). Probably the worst is the definition in Himmelmann and Schultze-Berndt (2005: 60): ‘we use the term converb for ‘participles’ which are used primarily as adjuncts’. As Grønbech (1979: 35) says of Turkic postpositions and gerundial forms, the converbs are ‘fluid and hard to hold on to’, which for a ‘cross-linguistic valid category’ (Haspelmath and König 1995, in which see Haspelmaths’s and König’s own contributions), is not an ideal condition. […]

Shisha-Halevy, A., 2003. Celtic Syntax, Egyptian-Coptic Syntax. In Das Alte Ägypten und seine Nachbarn: Festschrift Helmut Satzinger. Krems. Krems: Österreichisches Literaturforum, pp. 245–302.Abstract

H. J. Polotsky’s “Syntaxe amharique et syntaxe turque” (1960a), the Master’s only article in a properly speaking General Linguistics (typological-comparative) genre, the paper opening Polotsky’s Collected Papers (Jerusalem: the Magnes Press, 1971), has drawn little attention outside the small circle of the Jerusalem School and its adherents, perhaps because of an hermetic quality of style, as well as the exclusive Ethiopistic forum of publication. And yet, it is a wonderful fruit of Polotsky’s annus mirabilis, an insightful and sensitive exposé of an instance of the non-geographical, cross-genealogical Sprachbund and what may be called the historical-connection-indifferent typological rapprochement As is generally realized today, the Sprachbund phenomenon is varied and complex, reflecting the variety of languages-in-contact scenarios and their historical configuration. The relatively rare non-adjacent or non-geographical Sprachbund is less well understood and falls between the stools of typological and genetic comparison, and goes, to mix metaphors, against the grain of conventional comparativist temperament.

The “Eurafrican” (so Wagner in Transactions of the Philological Society 1969) hypothesis, first outlined in modern times at least as early as 1990 by John Morris-Jones, has been for most of the last century associated almost exclusively with the names of Julius Pokorny and his disciple, Heinrich Wagner. I believe it now deserves detailed objective re-appreciation, in view of the considerable expansion in our knowledge of Celtic and the advance in the unveiling of the languages commonly known as Afro-Asiatic or Hamito-Semitic, and especially of Egyptian and Coptic. Although it is generally not clear which languages are invoked on the Afro-Asiatic side — “Semitic” (which languages?) “Egyptian” (which phase or phases in its near four millennia of evolution?), Arabic, North-West Semitic, Accadian, Berber — a vagueness contributive to the scepticism with which the theory is still regarded (not that there is a generally accepted idea about hierarchies and chronologies inside the Celtic branch of Indo-European); nor is there any real confidence about either the chronological parameters, or the hierarchical structuring of syntactical and non-syntactical comparata of the comparison.