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Accusative and Dative Clitics

in Southern Macedonian and Northern Greek Dialects

Eleni Buzarovska
University of Skopje "Sts. Cyrill and Methodius"

The paper deals with certain aspects of the process oí Balkanization,^ a term used
in linguistics to denote a convergent, unifying phenomenon as opposed to its
modem political meaning of separatism and fragmentation. The aim of this
paper is to render support for the hypothesis" that Greek syntax has influenced
the syntax of the neighboring South Slavic dialects. The above thesis will be
substantiated by looking into two interrelated diachronic processes: (1) the
merger of accusative and dative clitics within the verb phrase; and (2) the
penetration of the preposition na (indirect object marker) into direct object
In other words, it will be argued that the polyfunctionality of Greek dative
clitics pushes the adverbal dative to be expressed in a different way from the
adnominal in the Northern dialect, thereby causing isomorphism of the accusative
and dative constructions. At the same time, taking into consideration the
language contact situation in the region, this dative shift or, more precisely, the
above mentioned isomorphism, indirectly enables the intrusion of the preposition
na with the accusative into the southemmost Slavic dialects.
These two structural changes have taken place in Southem Macedonian
dialects which have been exposed more than other dialects to the effects of the
Balkanization process {cf. Topoliñska 1995b). While the second phenomenon
was first recorded at the end of the 19th century,' researchers of the southem
dialects have registered and described the above phenomena without referring to
the causes of their emergence (with the notable exception of Topoliñska 1995a).
Thus, a systematic, explanatory study of both phenomena is lacking.
In arguing that the two processes in the southemmost Slavic language
systems were caused by contact with Northem Greek dialects, a plausible etiology
and a chronology of the analyzed changes will be offered. By comparing
diachronic and synchronie evidence I will try to achieve two complementary
goals: (1) show that due to the acceptance of the Northern Greek grammatical

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pattern the first process resulted in the merger of the accusative and the dative
pronominal clitics in South Slavic Macedonian dialects; and (2) offer a plausible
explanation for the total loss of the formal borderline between the constructions
that express direct and indirect dependence of the verb in these dialects.
1. Formally, the functions of direct and indirect relations in Standard
Macedonian (St.Mac) and Modem Greek" (M.Gr) are distinguished by the
obligatory presence of their exponents presented in the table below:


St.Mac M.Gr St.Mac M.Gr

lsg mi mu me me
2sg ti su te se
3sg(m) mu tu go ton
(n) mu tu go to
(f) i tis ja tin
lpl ni mas ne mas
2pl vi sas ve sas
3pl im tus/tis/ta gi tus/tis/ta

ïn Standard Macedonian the above pronominal clitics always occupy the

preverbal position — to the left of the verb. Enclitic use is reserved for the
imperative and present participial forms (Joseph and Philippaki-Warburton
1987:213). Modem Greek manifests an identical linearization of the clitics to
Standard Macedonian before a finite indicative verb (1), as well as after non-
indicative and non-finite verbal forms (2 and 3):

St.Mac: Ke mu go dadam
M.Gr: tha tu to doso
'I will give it to him.'

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St,Mac: daj mu go!
M,Gr: dose tu to!
'Give it to him!'

St,Mac: davajki mu go
M,Gr: dinontas tu to
'giving it to him'

The dative clitics in the noun phrase express possession or belonging" :

St,Mac: Kerka mi
M,Gr: i kori mu
DEF:F:SG daughter:F:SG I: DAT
'my daughter'

According to the syntactic behavior described above, the clitics have a dual
distribution: (1) adverbal, before or after the verb, constituting the verb phrase;
and (2) adnominal, after the noun phrase as its constituent.
In adverbal position, the clitics — more precisely the proclitics — perform
two functions; they can serve to express either direct or indirect dependence of
the verb,* In the adnominal position they become enclitics and denote
belonging,^ In Standard Macedonian the dative enclitics are used as functional
substitutes of possessive pronouns only when they co-occur with nouns whose
referents are single (never plural) members of the immediate family;

(5) Sg: Kerka mi 'my daughter' *raka mu 'his hand'
PI: *kerki mi 'my daughters' *race mu 'his hands'

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The limited distribution of Standard Macedonian dative clitics in the noun phrase
is thus semantically motivated** such that the Balkan non-Slavic possessive model
with dative clitics is used in Standard Macedonian only for rendering existential
relations of the type: x is a relative of y (e.g., if x is /, y is sister of mine)
formalized as (6):

(6) NPy <— NP,3,x

sestra mi <— sestra na mené
sister I:DAT CL sister PREP I:DAT PRON
'my sister' 'sister of me'

By contrast, Greek manifests a wider distribution of adnominal dative enclitics:

they express belonging not only with nouns that refer to family members, but
with nouns that have an unlimited range of referents — living beings, objects,
abstract notions. Accordingly, the morphosyntactic (Balkan) model for
expression of belonging with dative enclitics is productive in Modem Greek and
unproductive in Standard Macedonian due to the semantic constraint single family



M.Gr: i kori mu i kores mu

' the daughter my ' ' the daughters my '
St.Mac: kerkami moite Kerki
daughter my my-the daughters
'my daughter' 'my daughters'

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M.Gr: to heri mu i psihi mu

'the hand my' 'the soul my"
St.Mac: mojata raka mojata dusa
my-the hand my-the soul
'my hand' 'my soul'

The model witb adjectivized possessive (formalized by possessive pronoun) is

typical of all Slavic languages. In Standard Macedonian the "Slavic" model is
used for all kinds of relations: possessive proper {mojata kuk'a 'my house') and
two possessive-existential (/?!o/'ato raA'û 'my hand,' majka mi 'my mother'). We
can conclude then that the Balkan "syntactic model" for expression of possession
(genitive relation) has not been fully accepted in Standard Macedonian.'

1.1. Contemporary Northern Greek dialects manifest a facultative alternation of

both accusative and dative forms in the "dative" function, although in the past the
accusative clitic {e.g., ton) was used exclusively in the spoken language
(Browning 1969:123).

Standard Greek Northern Greek

Accusative ton vlepo 'him I see' ton, vlepo

tin vlepo 'her I see' tin, vlepo

Dative tu I dino ton2 dino 'him I give'

tis, dino tin2 dino 'her I give'

Genitive i mana tu2/*ton i mana tU2/*ton

i mana tis2/*tin i mana tis2/*tin

It can be hypothesized then that the surface exponents of the genitive and the
dative relation clashed in the Northern Greek dialects: in a contact situation the
need arose for a sharper formal distinction between these two functions. This in

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turn gave impetus to the spread of the accusative clitics expressing the dative
relation as a kind of common casus generalis for formalizing all verbal
dependence relations. In other words, the tendency to replace the dative proclitic
(tU|) with the accusative proclitic (tonj) is due to the syncretism of the dative
enclitic (tu,) used adnominally. The two competing homophonous forms strove
for formal functional independence. Hence the genitive function (adnominal)
became morphologically distinct from the dative function (adverbal).
On the semantic level we are dealing with motivation that springs from the
opposition between relations of possession and dependence' (which does not
have to be encoded formally, e.g., English 'her' vis-à-vis 'his/him'). On the
syntactic plane, a surface motivation is at play, manifested by the need to
distinguish between the two different syntagmatic positions of the syncretic
markers of the dative relation, namely adverbal vs. adnominal position.
It is significant that the opposition between the two functions is neutralized
in the Greek plural clitics. In Standard Greek the exponent of lpl and 2pl is the
single syncretic form mas (lpl) and sas (2pl), respectively:

(9) to spiti mas
DEF:SG:N house:SG:N we:DAT:lPL
'our house'

(10) Mas kserun. Mas tilefonun.
we:DAT:lPL know:PRES:3PL we:DAT:lPL caIl:PRES:3PL
'They know us.' 'They call us.'

Moreover, in 3pl, beside the unmarked form for masculine gender tiis, there are
feminine and neuter forms {tis, ta); they are used only as proclitics in adverbal
position. Thus, when tus is used adnominally the gender opposition is

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(11) Tus / tis / ta ksero.

'I know them.'

(12) tospiti tus/*tis/*ta

DEF:SG:N house:SG:N they:DAT:3PL
'their house'

The above distinction in (11) and (12) shows that in the plural there is a complete
syncretism of the genitive, dative and accusative clitics when they are used
adnominally, and only partial syncretism (dative and accusative) in adverbal
position. This pattem gives support for the eventual syncretism of dative and
accusative in the singular. What we are dealing with then is a case of analogy.

1.2. The fusion of the markers of the two case relations has been recorded in
those Lower Vardar Slavic Macedonian dialects that were exposed to a strong
Greek influence. The tendency to expand the use of the accusative clitics
functioning as universal markers of the verb-object relation is witnessed in
Miletic's example from Vatilak (cited by Topolinska 1995a:97). in which go
(ACC) is used instead of mti (DAT) in the second clause. The Northern Greek
equivalent for both mu and go is the accusative/dative ton.

(13) on mu hvarli klucovite i go veli

he him threw the keys and him says
'he threw the keys to him and told him'

Following the Greek syntactic model the same analogy mechanisms operated in
example (14) yielding the use of the accusative ya/tin instead of the syncretic
dative-genitive i/tis:

(14) majka i ya veli (ya instead of/)

i mana tis tin lei
DEF mother she:DAT she:ACC say:PRES.3SG
'her mother says to her'

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According to our hypothesis the replacement of the dative clitic in the above
example has occurred in order to maintain the difference between the adnominal
and adverbal position. Note, however, Topolinska's (1995a) opinion that ",,, we
are dealing here with a tendency only, not a consistent rule," She accounts for
the limited distribution of this phenomenon through the loss ",,, of dynamic
continuum of syntactic processes that emerged and were reinforced under the
pressure of various interference processes,"

2, The second phenomenon in Southern Macedonian dialects which was also

formed under Greek influence is the insertion of the preposition na into
accusative constructions of the type [na -i- noun phrase]. The spread of
prepositional structures with na begins in the dative and expands into the
possessive construction," According to Topolinska (1995a:93) ",,, due to the
loss of morphological dative and taking into consideration the very limited range
of nouns which have morphological accusative, the opposition accusative vs.
dative can only be emphasized with analytic constructions," Thus, in the
following example from the same source, the preposition na is inserted before the
definite noun phrase:

(15) yas gu vidu na deteto

I he:ACC see:AOR,lSG PREP child:DEF,SG,N
'I saw the child,'

as a contrast to the indefinite in

yas vidu dete

I see;AOR,lSG child;SG,N
'I saw a child,'

Compare with the dative construction;

mu dava na deteto
'he gives to the child'

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The preposition na is a regular bearer of dative relation in the standard language,

but in Southem Macedonian dialects it also indicates direct subordination
encoded by the accusative. Koneski (1986:202) writes that the above
phenomenon was common in the middle of the 19th century (from evidence in
the Kulakia gospel and Verkovic's collection), as well as at the end of the 19th
century in the region of Kostur (Kastoria), Struga and Debar. The direct na-
object is recorded as referring predominantly to animate objects as in (16), which
suggests compliance with the animacy constraint:

(16) toj ne posluca na zenata mu

'he didn't listen/obey to his wife'

Koneski (1986) assumes that this constmction has probably spread under the
influence of the Aromanian language (preposition + direct object construction as
in example (17) has been registered in some Aromanian dialects), but remarks
that Malecki could not find this type of structure in all Aromanian dialects.

(17) '1 vizdui pi Taki

'I saw to Taki.'

Topolinska (1995a:95), however, believes that this constmction is a syntactic

innovation resulting from contact with the Greek language: "... it spreads in the
dialects which undergo major interference on the part of non-Slavic Balkan
languages, above all Greek; i.e., in the dialects in which the inherited Slavic
morphosyntactic system is in the process of retreat."

2.1. We can hypothesize that the /¡a-accusative change probably involves a long
process carried out in several stages:

a. fusion of the long accusative and dative pronominal forms {mené,

tebe, etc);
b. spread of the preposition na into the accusative nominal (and
pronominal) constructions denoting a referentially identified individual
only; and

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c. suspension of the animacy constraint — the «a-accusative NP can

refer to inanimate objects.

The replacement of dative long pronouns by the analytical construction [na -t-
accusative pronoun] has resulted in the generalization of accusative long
pronominal forms. This in tum has probably facilitated the spread of the
preposition na by analogy with the dative construction. Topolinska (1995a)
claims that the dative marker na, due to the semantics of the dative relation
expressing a transaction between (two) human participants has become a marker
of an animate agent, a bénéficient. She cites numerous examples (recorded by
Vatroslav Oblak [1896]) with the animacy constraint applied to the referent of
the accusative NP:

(18) pitam na mojta zena

'ask to my wife'

(19) va covek me kara na men

'this man me scolds to my/myself
Gol^b (1961/2-1963/4) gives examples registered in the
thirties of the 20th century by Mazon and Vaillant, and

(20) i go zve na deteto

'and he called to the boy'

(21 ) uvarzajte na negu

'tie/arrest to him'

Topolinska (1995a:97) suggests that the preposition-marker na first co-occurred

with nouns denoting human referents and later its usage became more common
with pronouns. This is supported by the following examples'^:

(22) go viknuvaat na nego

'they call to him'

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(23) na nas ne kanija na sfadba

to ourselves us invitcd-they to a wedding
'it was us they invited to a wedding'

However, in the dialectal material exploring that region (Koneski 1986, Peev
1983, Topoliñska 1995a) I have found a few examples with inanimate (rather
non-personal) referents which suggests that the process of analogy was extended
even further.

(24) pustile na ortomata

'they threw to the rope'

(25) zcde malku smola i ja izbrisa na masata

'took a little wax and wiped to the table'

(26) dojde ain valk vecarta, go izede na skembeto

'came a wolf that evening and ate to the tripe/stomach'

(27) fastaci vikat Bugarto na kikiritkite

pistachios call the Bulgarians to peanuts
'the Bulgarians call peanuts pistachios'

(28) udril na kuleno

'he hit to his knee'

(29) gu vjahum na konut

mount-I to the horse

2.2. In spite of the limited distribution of the accusative «a-constructions, the

fact that they do exist undermines the thesis of purely semantic-based change and
provides grounds for establishing additional syntactic motivation. The above
discussion suggests that this syntactic "impetus" may lie in the structure of the
Northem Greek accusative construction.
To support the thesis of semantico-syntactical motivation of this change and
to account for its rise and spread in a neighboring, genetically distant dialect we

Balkanistica 14(2001)

should first look at the dative and accusative constructions in Northern Greek
dialects. Comparison of the following two examples (in which the first clitic is
in parenthesis to indicate that the doubling of the object in Greek is optional)
confirms that ton functions as an operator of grammatical dependence, i.e., as a
surface marker of the verb-object relation, irrespective of whether the following
slot is filled with a direct or indirect object.

Northern Greek Standard Macedonian

Ace. (Ton) ipa ton andra. Mu rekov na mazot

said-I the man him said-I to man-the
'I told the: man.

Dat. (Ton) ida ton andra. Go gledam 0 mazot

saw-I the man him saw-I man-the
'I saw the man.'

The preposition na fills the syntagmatic position opened by the finite verb. In
Northern Greek (N.Gr.) dialects this object position is filled with ton or other
corresponding accusative proclitics. In Southem Macedonian (So.Mac.) dialects
the preposition na was perceived as a functional analogue of ton and therefore
copied in direct government, as the following table illustrates'^:


So.Mac. Mu velam na X Go gledam na X

N.Gr. Ton leo ton X Ton vlepo ton X
say-I to X see-I X

The resultant state in case relations can be schematized as a proportional


Northern Greek: ACC as indirect object ACC as direct object

Southern Mac: na+NP as indirect object na+NP as direct object

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It can be concluded that two consecutive inter-dependent processes have taken

place in Greek Macedonian (and other Northern Greek dialects) and Southern
Slavic Macedonian dialects:

(a) replacement of the dative clitics with the accusative due to the need for
syntactic differentiation between adnominal and adverbal position.
Contrary to what happened in the Northern Greek dialects this process was
not fully completed in neighboring Slavic Macedonian dialects. Its limited
distribution in Southern Macedonian and absence of retention classify the
change as discontinuous,

(b) insertion of na into accusative constructions. This innovation resulted

in the loss of the formal boundary between constructions denoting direct
and indirect dependence. The change was initiated by the Northern Greek
dialectal syntactic model and had a wider distribution than the first process.
Consequently, the «a-accusative construction is still common in some
southern dialects {e.g., Enidje-VardarA'anica), but with a more limited
referential scope {i.e., it is used only with nouns denoting personal names
— maximally determined persons:'^ see examples 30 and 31),

(30) gu videh na Taki

saw-1 to Taki

(31 ) *gu videh na cuveka

saw-I to the man

2,3, The above analysis shows that the first syntactic change was triggered by
semantic reasons, that is, by the need for formal distinction between categories of
possession and subordination, as well as syntactic, the syntagmatic distinction
between NP and VP constituents. The second change was syntactically
motivated, though semantically constrained, and was caused by the tendency
toward symmetry and syntactic leveling between the two language systems. As a
result, the two dialects emerged with an isomorphic structure of their respective
verb phrases.

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Both changes should be viewed as products of intensive contact among

different genetically distant languages on a comparatively small territory (central
Macedonia). The simplification of the clitic case paradigm in Northem Greek
dialects is an example of a complex, (yet intemally) motivated change from more
marked structures to less marked. On the other hand, it might be attributed to the
outside pressure of neighboring non-Greek diasystems (Turkish, Slavic,
Aromanian, Albanian). The bilingual speakers of these communities
(particularly Aromanian merchants and clergy) may have instigated the change in
their contacts with the local Greek population.
The second change is an example of extemally motivated change. The
social context — the cultural pressure of the more prestigious Greek language
within which the change occurred — determined the direction and the degree of
interference {cf. Thomason and Kaufman 1988:23). In addition to the favorable
social conditions for language interference, a stmctural tendency for
simplification of the Southern Slavic case paradigm contributed to the acceptance
of the innovation. The Greek influence on the southemmost Slavic dialects was
great enough to cause a structural change in the syntax of the verb phrase, thus
further leveling out the case (pronominal) system and generally contributing to
the convergent development of both diasystems.


1. Balkanization should not be seen as a single process but rather as a series of different changes
affecting different parts of the grammars of two or more neighboring languages, changes that have
resulted in their mutual structural similarity. It would be more precise to consider Balkanization
as the outcome of processes of accommodation and convergence in the usage of bilingual
2. As found in Topolinska (1995a:93).
3. See Oblak 1896, as discussed in Topolinska 1995a.
4. Traditionally, the dative short pronominal forms in Modem Greek are called "genitive," due to
the syncretism of their forms (except for plural tis and ta).
5. In Modern Greek the possessive pronominal forms are formally identical with the weak
indirect object pronominal forms in these two functions. However, Joseph (to appear) claims that
phonological divergence is underway in Modem Greek to separate the functions in third person.

Balkanistica 14 (2001)

6. Joseph (1983) convincingly argues that left-placed clitics are finiteness markers of the verb
they precede.
7. Koneski (1967:165) claims that the dative withstood the spread of the accusative the longest.
With the loss of the genitive, the dative became the only case for expression of ownership because
it found a parallel in the other Balkan languages in which the dative-genitive foiTn was alive.
8. For more discussion on Balkan case systems see Topolinska 1985, 1993 and 1996a.
9. For discussion of the use of dative of possession in Bulgarian vs. Macedonian see Topolmska
10. Mackridge states that "[i]t is perhaps possible to trace the origin of the dative 'genitive' in
Modem Greek as being precisely that the genitive indicates possession, the consequences of
'harisa to vivlio tu Yani' (I gave / as a present the book to Yani) -> 'to vivlio ine tu Yani' (the
book is of Yani)."
11. According to Koneski (1967:165): "The replacement of the dative serving as an indirect
object with /;<3-constructions has its origin in the dative of possession. The use of the same
prepositional /la-construction both for indirect object and for rendering possessive meaning is due
to the fact that it replaces the same dative case form. Thus, 'mu rekov na covekot' (I said to the
man) and 'nivata na covekot' (the field of the man) can be traced to the older dative construction m
both cases: 'mu rekov coveku (tomu)' (I said to the man (that one's)) and 'nivata coveku (tomu)'
(the field ofthe man (that one's))."
12. The examples are from Karanfilovski 1992.
13. Koneski's (1967:168) evidence may serve as support for this thesis. In the translation of the
Bible into the dialect of Boboscica (in Southem East Albania) the Greek article tu in a possessive
construction with a proper a name — A nie sme tu Moisi 'We are tu Moses' — is only a marker
of a possession relation.
14. I am obliged to Brian Joseph for this suggestion.
15. The examples were given to me by informants from this area.
16. The author of Le.vico« Tetraglosson (part of Didaskatia), a priest and teacher. Daniel, wrote
the Greek and the Aromanian versions (published in 1802; see Nicev 1977). A priest, Stefan,
from Ohrid, who was, as Daniel, of Aromanian descent, translated the Macedonian column in
Tetraglosson. Evidence of the Aromanian role in the hellenization process can be found in
Daniel's Didaskalia (Nicev 1977) and Martin-Leake's Researches in Greece (1814). Taking into
consideration the fact that the bi/multilingual Aromanian speakers acquired Greek as a second
language, there was a natural tendency on their part to simplify asymmetrical grammatical pattems
(Buzarovska 1996). Moreover, being mostly sheep breeders and merchants (Wace and

Balkanistica 14 (2001)

Thompson 1914; Skendi 1980), in other words more mobile than other ethnic groups, they couid
have played a more active role in the diffusion of Balitan language innovations.


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. To appear. "Is There Such a Thing as Grammaticalization?
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