Object Reduplication in Spoken Bulgarian Abstract

John Leafgren, University of Arizona

A good deal of attention has been directed toward the grammatical phenomenon in Bulgarian sometimes termed "object reduplication". In such constructions direct and indirect objects are formally represented within a single clause not once, but twice. The object is referred to not only by some noun or full pronoun, but also by a short clitic pronoun. Thus alongside the more frequently occurring non-reduplicated objects (e.g., Namerix knigata. 'I found the book.'), one encounters also reduplicated objects (e.g., Namerix ja knigata. 'I found [it] the book.').

There are several commonly proposed analyses of the function of object reduplication. It can be argued, however, that each of these views is flawed or incomplete in some respect. The claim that object reduplication serves to disambiguate the case roles of direct objects vs. subjects might account for the reduplication of non-pronominal direct objects, but fails to address first the reduplication of personal pronouns in the role of direct object (the very form of which makes their non-subject status clear without reduplication) and, second, says nothing about the reduplication of indirect objects (where reduplication appears to be most likely), since indirect objects, be they nominal or pronominal, are clearly marked as such by the preposition na. The notions that reduplication is either a secondary marker of definiteness or else marks emphasis on the object both become problematic when one encounters reduplication of objects which are either indefinite or unemphatic. Most promising appear to be attempts to connect reduplication to the status of the object as topic of the sentence or clause. Even here, though, existing analyses have drawbacks. Some place restrictions on this topic-marking function, asserting the connection only in the case of direct object reduplication or only to the reduplication of personal pronouns. Others, working with a very narrow definition of topicality, come to the conclusion that most, but not all, reduplicated objects are topical. And the strongest claim of a topic-marking function for Bulgarian object reduplication restricts itself to the literary language as used in prose fiction.

The current paper will address this last shortcoming by presenting an analysis of the use of object reduplication in contemporary spoken Bulgarian. It will present and discuss the findings of an attempt to apply a strong topic-marking function to the construction in question in data taken from colloquial speech. This is a particularly important step in the case of a construction such as Bulgarian object reduplication which occurs much more frequently in the spoken language than in written form, and in fact is often described as a colloquial feature when it does occur in the literary language.