This paper focuses on the syntactic alternation between Latvian constructions like (1) man ir desmit lati «I have ten ‘lats’» and (2) man ir desmit latu «id.». Quite recently, Menantaud (2011) suggested comparing this alternation with similar constructions in Polish: (3) dwaj panowie spali «deux messieurs dormaient» and (4) dwóch panów spało «id.». According to his hypothesis, the constructions with the genitive – i.e. (2) and (4) – may have been used in the past in order to “exprimer l’indéfinitude”. Here the author first of all shows that Latvian and Polish phenomena should be considered separately (§3), then he focuses on Latvian and points out the main difficulties in accepting Menantaud’s proposals (§4). Finally, a different perspective is adopted (§5): through a comparison with Lithuanian (where only constructions with the genitive are admitted) and with other classic and modern IE languages, Cerri suggests regarding (2) as an instance of the partitive construction (cf. Greenberg 1978, 1989). This was possibly the original syntactic pattern for round numerals in different IE languages, but it tended to be replaced by non-partitive constructions (cf. Corbett 1978a, 1978b). This tendency produced the coexistence of forms like (1) and (2) which seem to be – in Modern as well as in Old Latvian – essentially synonymous.
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