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What was your first scientific published paper?
Nicholas, N. 1998. To aper and o opios: Untangling Mediaeval Relativisation. In Joseph, B.D., Horrocks, G.C. & Philippaki-Warburton, I. (eds), Themes in Greek Linguistics II. (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 159) Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 283-323.
This was a very tangled paper, that kept tripping itself over.
The paper is about an oddity in legal documents written in official Greek in Southern Italy, between 1000 and 1350. These documents routinely featured τὸ ἅπερ, “the which”, as a relative pronoun. The problem with that “the which” construction is, the “the” was in the neuter singular, and the “which” was in the neuter plural. It is a construction that doesn’t appear elsewhere in Greek (though a singular/singular version does once or twice), and that makes no linguistic sense.
The construction is reminiscent of a Romance “the which” construction, which ended up in English, and also in Greek somewhat later (ο οποίος); but the documents seem too early to allow for that influence. The plural really makes no sense at all, and after tying myself in all sorts of knots trying to make sense of it, I end up mumbling that maybe another linguist’s suggestion that it was some sort of phonetic effect is it.
The really interesting thing was to look at the structure of the land deeds that the construction appeared in. The land deeds were highly formulaic, and the construction kept showing up in the same place, time and again: the definition of the land boundaries. However the construction got into the earliest land deeds, it got into the later land deeds through the monks robotically using those deeds as templates.
The paper has a common fault of my papers: it goes into way too convoluted reasoning, exploring every option and alternative, whether they are germane or not. In fact, the paper explores so many options, it ends up unreadable; several of them did.