In Romanian, a broad range of predicates is used with a subject-like experiencer argument in the dative (e.g. Mi-e somn ‘I feel sleepy’, lit. me.DAT is sleep) or, more rarely, in the accusative (mă doare capul ‘I have a headache’, lit. me.ACC hurts the head). According to Bossong (1998) and Haspelmath (2001), the oblique marking of the experiencer distinguishes Romanian from both other Romance and Balkan languages, where the experiencer is encoded as a (nominative) subject, which is the canonical marking in “Standard Average European” languages (cf. Fr. J’ai sommeil). As a consequence, Romanian is claimed to be typologically closer to East-Slavic, Baltic, Finno-Ugrian and Caucasian languages, which also have dative experiencers. This is surprising since Romanian has undergone substantial contact-induced influence by Old-Slavic and Balkan languages, which are agent-experiencer languages, but not by East-Slavic or Baltic languages, which are dative-experiencer languages.
The aim of this project is to study oblique subject-like arguments in Contemporary Romanian and their evolution in Romanian texts from the 16th century until now, in order to verify whether decline, stability or increase in productivity of non-canonical subject marking can be observed, bringing Romanian closer to or further away from the Standard Average European type. The project will be based on reliable corpus research methods.