CROATIAN ZA-INFINITIVE: EXTERNAL BORROWING VS. INTERNAL LANGUAGE CHANGE

Author:
Jozo Vela
Email:
jvela@stin.hr
Summary
The use of the infinitive in sentences such as Imate li sobu za iznajmiti? in the modern Croatian language is usually called “prepositional infinitive” or “za + infinitive construction”. Infinitive used with za is considered to be ungrammatical and a loan from other languages, namely German and/or Italian. It is therefore recommended to avoid using such an expression in a finer literary discourse. This paper proposes a different approach and points out that the za-infinitive might be an issue of internal language change, as has already been indicated by Pranjković. Furthermore, it shows that the Croatian za-infinitive follows the universal path of semantic and formal grammaticalization of the infinitive, as outlined by Haspelmath. Such a claim is supported by evidence from older texts in the Croatian language, as well as by certain comparisons with other European languages. Consequently, a new formal description of the infinitive use in question is proposed.
Key words
Croatian language; infinitive; prepositional infinitive; za + infinitive; language change; grammaticalization; loan
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