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Article

Agreement in Germanic  

Haldór Ármann Sigurðsson

There are four major types of agreement in Germanic: finite verb agreement, primary predicate agreement, secondary predicate agreement, and DP-internal concord, and there is extensive variation among the Germanic languages across all these agreement phenomena. Icelandic commonly has five distinct person/number forms of verbs, while Afrikaans and the mainland Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish) have no person/number distinctions of verbs, with the other languages positioning themselves between these extremes. Standard varieties of West-Germanic languages (Afrikaans, Dutch, English, German, Yiddish, West-Frisian,) have no predicate agreement, whereas standard varieties of Scandinavian languages (Icelandic, Faroese, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish) all have both primary and secondary predicate agreement. There is, however, quite some variation in predicate agreement within the Scandinavian languages. The Mainland Scandinavian languages have gender/number agreement of both primary and secondary predicates, albeit with some variation as to whether only predicative adjectives or both predicative adjectives and past participles show agreement (and also as to when past participles show agreement). The Insular Scandinavian languages (Faroese and Icelandic), on the other hand, have case agreement, in addition to gender/number agreement, of both primary and secondary predicates, either adjectives or past participles (e.g., Icelandic primary predicate agreement: “He.nom.m.sg was drunk.nom.m.sg”; secondary predicate agreement: “She.nom.f.sg met him.acc.m.sg drunk.acc.m.sg” [he was drunk] versus. “She.nom.f.sg met him.acc.m.sg drunk.nom.f.sg” [she was drunk]). Case agreement in these two languages commonly disambiguates secondary predicate structures. Afrikaans has no concord of DP-internal modifiers (articles, adjectives, etc.), whereas the other West-Germanic languages have some DP-concord, poorest in English, richest in German (which has gender/number/case concord of a number of categories, most clearly the articles). The Mainland Scandinavian languages also have some DP-concord (gender/number), while DP-concord is extensive in Faroese and Icelandic (gender/number/case of articles, demonstrative determiners, adjectives, some numerals, indefinite pronouns, floating quantifiers, and some possessive pronouns). The Germanic languages are a relatively small and closely knit language family, so the extensive agreement variation within this small family is a major challenge to any general theory of agreement.

Article

Agreement Morphology  

Patricia Cabredo Hofherr

Agreement is defined as the systematic covariance of one element with another. The most uncontroversial agreement configuration is that between a controller—an element intrinsically specified for a value of an agreement feature—and the target of agreement—the element reflecting a displaced feature value of the controller. The distribution of morphological agreement markers is however much wider than controller–target configurations: targets can express agreement values for features that are not visible on the controller and even show agreement morphology in the absence of a lexical controller. A second source of variation is due to the fact that in certain contexts there is a choice between syntactic agreement (with formal features of the controller) and semantic agreement (with semantic features of the referent of the controller). The choice between syntactic and semantic agreement is correlated in part with cross-linguistically observed regularities that have been formulated as the agreement hierarchy and the animacy hierarchy. Agreement morphology harnesses the same morphological devices found with derivation and inflection. Like inflectional morphology more generally, agreement morphology is only present in a subset of the world’s languages.

Article

Gender Systems in Germanic  

Jenny Audring

Grammatical gender is a pervasive property of the Germanic languages. The typical Germanic gender system distinguishes three values: masculine, feminine, and neuter. The gender value of a noun is not expressed on the noun itself, but shows on agreeing words such as articles, adjectives, and a variety of pronouns. In all Germanic languages except for the two most conservative, Icelandic and Faroese, gender is distinguished only in the singular. Some of the languages have reduced the traditional three gender values to two. In most varieties, this involves the conflation of the historical masculine and feminine. In these languages, nouns denoting male or female persons appear with the same form of the article and other agreeing words. However, the personal pronouns often retain the masculine-feminine split. Some agreement targets have lost their ability to mark gender altogether. In the most extreme cases, gender agreement is limited to the personal and the possessive pronouns, such as in English and in Afrikaans. What gender a noun belongs to is regulated by assignment principles. Germanic shows semantic, morphological, and phonological assignment principles. In the more traditional languages, especially Icelandic, Faroese, and German, the inflectional class of a noun is an important predictor for its gender. The pronominal gender languages Afrikaans and English have purely semantic systems. This appears to be a typical correlation, observable in other languages. This article describes the gender systems of Germanic comparatively and points out interesting complexities that inform our understanding of this puzzling grammatical feature.

Article

Number Marking in Nouns and Adjectives in the Romance Languages  

Franck Floricic

Even though Romance languages are taken to be well-known because of their clearly identified ancestor, they continuously offer a source of patterns and phenomena that are far from being properly taken into account in typological surveys. Corbett rightly pointed out that the question of number has erroneously been held to be simple and straightforward. Needless to say, if many Romance varieties suffer from endangerment or from sociological marginalization, other varieties like French are in some sense trapped in the ice of their norm and such a situation may lead in some cases to questionable analyses. Any French speaker will hold that the feminine of adjectives such as natif [naˈtif] ‘native’ is formed by substituting [f] for [v] and adding final -e at the orthographic level, hence the feminine singular form native [naˈtiv], as in, say, vert-e ‘green’. It is clear, however, that the opposition between natif and native relies on voice-alternation of the adjective final consonant. Various examples of this kind can be adduced to show how phonetic processes contribute to morphological oppositions.

Article

Head Movement and Morphological Strength  

Jan-Wouter Zwart

In the Principles and Parameters framework of Generative Grammar, the various positions occupied by the verb have been identified as functional heads hosting inflectional material (affixes or features), which may or may not attract the verb. This gave rise to a hypothesis, the Rich Agreement Hypothesis (RAH), according to which the verb has to move to the relevant functional head when the corresponding inflectional paradigm counts as “rich.” The RAH is motivated by synchronic and diachronic variation among closely related languages (mostly of the Germanic family) suggesting a correspondence between verb movement and rich agreement. Research into this correspondence was initially marred by the absence of a fundamental definition of “richness” and by the observation of counterexamples, both synchronically (dialects not conforming to the pattern) and diachronically (a significant time gap between the erosion of verbal inflection and the disappearance of verb movement). Also, the research was based on a limited group of related languages and dialects. This led to the conclusion that there was at best a weak correlation between verb movement and richness of morphology. Recently, the RAH has been revived in its strong form, proposing a fundamental definition of richness and testing the RAH against a typologically more diverse sample of the languages of the world. While this represents significant progress, several problems remain, with certain (current and past) varieties of North Germanic not conforming to the expected pattern, and the typological survey yielding mixed or unclear results. A further problem is that other Germanic languages (Dutch, German, Frisian) vary as to the richness of their morphology, but show identical verb placement patterns. This state of affairs, especially in light of recent minimalist proposals relocating both inflectional morphology and verb movement outside syntax proper (to a component in the model of grammar interfacing between narrow syntax and phonetic realization), suggests that we need a more fundamental understanding of the relation between morphology and syntax before any relation between head movement and morphological strength can be reliably ascertained.

Article

Nominal Inflectional Morphology in Germanic: Adjectives  

Hans-Olav Enger

The article surveys the different types of adjective inflection: gradation and agreement. Agreement inflection on adjectives in Germanic can involve gender, number, case, and strong/weak (definiteness). The languages differ in their agreement inflection. The different modes of exponence for the different inflections are shown (e.g., periphrasis, affixation, and vowel change). There are adjectives that are defective and those that are completely indeclinable. The article also surveys deviations such as suppletion and syncretisms. The article shows how the notion of construction may be relevant for Germanic adjective inflection, how there is a difference between attributive and predicative use in that the former typically involves “more inflection,” and this is also shown for cases of semantic agreement. Perhaps some differences between Germanic languages in their adjective inflection relate to sociolinguistic factors.

Article

Secondary Predication in the Romance Languages  

Steffen Heidinger

A secondary predicate is a nonverbal predicate which is typically optional and which shares its argument with the sentence’s main verb (e.g., cansada ‘tired’ in Portuguese Ela chega cansada ‘She arrives tired’). A basic distinction within the class of adjunct secondary predicates is that between depictives and resultatives. Depictives, such as cansada in the Portuguese example, describe the state of an argument during the event denoted by the verb. Typically, Romance depictives morphologically agree with their argument in gender and number (as in the case of cansada). Resultatives, such as flat in John hammered the metal flat, describe the state of an argument which results from the event denoted by the verb. Resultatives come in different types, and the strong resultatives, such as flat in the English example, are missing in Romance languages. Although strong resultatives are missing, Romance languages possess other constructions which express a sense of resultativity: spurious resultatives, where the verb and the resultative predicate are linked because the manner of carrying out the action denoted by the verb leads to a particular resultant state (e.g., Italian Mia figlia ha cucito la gonna troppo stretta ‘My daughter sewed the skirt too tight’), and to a much lesser extent weak resultatives, where the meaning of the verb and the meaning of the resultative predicate are related (the resultative predicate specifies a state that is already contained in the verb’s meaning, e.g., French Marie s’est teint les cheveux noirs ‘Marie dyed her hair black’). In Romance languages the distinction between participant-oriented secondary predicates and event-oriented adjectival adverbs is not always clear. On the formal side, the distinction is blurred when (a) adjectival adverbs exhibit morphological agreement (despite their event orientation) or (b) secondary predicates do not agree with the argument they predicate over. On the semantic side, one and the same string may be open to interpretation as a secondary predicate or as an adjectival adverb (e.g., Spanish Pedro gritó colérico ‘Pedro screamed furious/furiously’).

Article

Coordination in Syntax in the Romance Languages  

Anne Abeillé

Coordination exhibits unusual syntactic properties: the conjuncts need not be identical but they must obey some parallelism constraints, and their number is not limited. Romance languages have conjunctive (‘and’), disjunctive (‘or’), adversative (‘but’), and negative (‘nor’) conjunctions, some of which have a correlative use, such as (French) soit . . . soit, (Italian, Spanish) o . . . o, (Portuguese) quer . . . quer, (Romanian) sau . . . sau (‘either . . . or’). They allow coordination of clauses and phrases but also of words (French: le ou la secrétaire ‘the.m.sg or the.f.sg secretary’) and even some word parts (Italian: pre- o post-moderno ‘pre- or post-modern’). Romance languages show intricate agreement patterns in case of coordination. For number agreement, disjunctive coordination allows for total or partial agreement (Paul ou Marie viendra/viendront. ‘Paul or Mary come.fut.sg/pl’). For gender agreement, conjunctive coordination obeys gender resolution (French: un garçon et une fille gentils ‘a boy.m.sg and a girl.f.sg nice. m.pl’) or closest conjunct agreement (Spanish: El idioma y literatura rusa ‘the language.m.sg and litterature.f.sg Russian.f.sg’). Coordination may also involve nonconstituents (Italian: Darò un libro a Giovanni e un disco a Maria. ‘I’ll give a book to Giovanni and a record to Maria’) and ellipsis, such as gapping (French: Paul arrive demain et Marie aujourd’hui. ‘Paul arrives tomorrow and Mary today’), with possible mismatches between the elided material and its overt antecedent.

Article

Switch Reference in Morphology  

Rik van Gijn

Switch reference is a grammaticalized system for marking continuity or discontinuity of reference between two clauses. It is therefore not surprising that switch reference has received a lot of attention from syntacticians. From the syntactic discussions of switch reference, it has become clear that switch reference is far from a unified phenomenon, as it seems to range between a strictly syntactic system in some languages and a pragmatically driven marker of discourse cohesion in others. Switch reference involves the marking of (dis)continuity, and switch reference markers are more often than not morphological units. This means that, apart from the syntactic side, switch reference has a morphological side as well. The morphology of switch reference has received far less attention than its syntax and semantics. Although there are clear tendencies with respect to the morphological characteristics of switch reference markers (they tend to be inflectional suffixes that take a verb as their host), their characteristics are by no means uniform across languages. Switch reference is not always clearly an inflectional category, nor is it always expressed strictly morphologically, but rather by clitics or phonologically free words. Languages may furthermore have dedicated switch reference marking, but in many cases, switch reference is expressed in combination with other categories sharing the exponent. Paradigms of switch reference markers may show several types of asymmetries, whether to do with markedness, (co-)exponence, or different morphosyntactic behavior. A possible reason for the diversity found in switch reference markers, sometimes within the same language, may be the diverse origins of the markers: they may for instance stem from gapping structures, nonfinite verb morphology, pronouns, deictic elements, conjunction markers, or case markers.

Article

Case Interactions in Syntax  

Jessica Coon and Clint Parker

The phenomenon of case has been studied widely at both the descriptive and theoretical levels. Typological work on morphological case systems has provided a picture of the variability of case cross-linguistically. In particular, languages may differ with respect to whether or not arguments are marked with overt morphological case, the inventory of cases with which they may be marked, and the alignment of case marking (e.g., nominative-accusative vs. ergative-absolutive). In the theoretical realm, not only has morphological case been argued to play a role in multiple syntactic phenomena, but current generative work also debates the role of abstract case (i.e., Case) in the grammar: abstract case features have been proposed to underlie morphological case, and to license nominals in the derivation. The phenomenon of case has been argued to play a role in at least three areas of the syntax reviewed here: (a) agreement, (b) A-movement, and (c) A’-movement. Morphological case has been shown to determine a nominal argument’s eligibility to participate in verbal agreement, and recent work has argued that languages vary as to whether movement to subject position is case-sensitive. As for case-sensitive A’-movement, recent literature on ergative extraction restrictions debates whether this phenomenon should be seen as another instance of “case discrimination” or whether the pattern arises from other properties of ergative languages. Finally, other works discussed here have examined agreement and A’-extraction patterns in languages with no visible case morphology. The presence of patterns and typological gaps—both in languages with overt morphological case and in those without it—lends support to the relevance of abstract case in the syntax.

Article

Neurolinguistic Research on the Romance Languages  

Valentina Bambini and Paolo Canal

Neurolinguistics is devoted to the study of the language-brain relationship, using the methodologies of neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience to investigate how linguistic categories are grounded in the brain. Although the brain infrastructure for language is invariable across cultures, neural networks might operate differently depending on language-specific features. In this respect, neurolinguistic research on the Romance languages, mostly French, Italian, and Spanish, proved key to progress the field, especially with specific reference to how the neural infrastructure for language works in the case of more richly inflected systems than English. Among the most popular domains of investigation are agreement patterns, where studies on Spanish and Italian showed that agreement across features and domains (e.g., number or gender agreement) engages partially different neural substrates. Also, studies measuring the electrophysiological response suggested that agreement processing is a composite mechanism involving different temporal steps. Another domain is the noun-verb distinction, where studies on the Romance languages indicated that the brain is more sensitive to the greater morphosyntactic engagement of verbs compared with nouns rather than to the grammatical class distinction per se. Concerning language disorders, the Romance languages shed new light on inflectional errors in aphasic speakers and contributed to revise the notion of agrammatism, which is not simply omission of morphemes but might involve incorrect substitution from the inflectional paradigm. Also, research in the Romance domain showed variation in degree and pattern of reading impairments due to language-specific segmental and suprasegmental features. Despite these important contributions, the Romance family, with its multitude of languages and dialects and a richly documented diachronic evolution, is a still underutilized ‘treasure house’ for neurolinguistic research, with significant room for investigations exploring the brain signatures of language variation in time and space and refining the linking between linguistic categories and neurobiological primitives.

Article

Ergativity in Indo-Aryan  

Pritty Patel-Grosz

Case and agreement patterns that are present in Old, Middle, and New Indo-Aryan languages have been argued to require the following perspective: since ergative case marking and ergative (object) agreement in these languages are historically tied to having originated from the past perfective morphological marker ta, they can only be fully understood from a perspective that factors in this development. Particular attention is given to the waxing and waning of ergative properties in Late Middle Indo-Aryan and New Indo-Aryan, which give rise to recurring dissociation of case and agreement; specifically, object agreement in the absence of ergative case marking is attested in Kutchi Gujarati and Marwari, whereas ergative case marking without object agreement is present in Nepali. With regard to case, recent insights show that “ergative/accusative” may be regularly semantically/pragmatically conditioned in Indo-Aryan (so-called differential case marking). Pertaining to agreement, a central theoretical question is whether “ergative” object agreement should be analyzed uniformly with subject agreement or, alternatively, as a type of participle agreement—drawing on synchronic parallels between Indo-Aryan and Romance.

Article

Central-Southern Italo-Romance  

Alessandro De Angelis

Although respective Central (= CIDs) and Southern (= SIDs) Italo-Romance dialects display peculiar linguistic features, they also share a substantial number of common isoglosses such that they can be classified as two subdivisions of the same geolinguistic unit. Some of these are simply represented by the absence of Tuscan features, such as diphthongization in open syllable or anaphonesis. Other features are idiosyncratic and are discussed within the main body of this article, such as: (a) the different types of vowel systems; (b) the two main patterns of metaphony; (c) propagation; (d) phonosyntactic doubling that is not sensitive to stress. Regarding the morphological phenomena present in these varieties, the encliticization of possessives and the loss of both of the future indicative and the present subjunctive will be discussed. With regard to (morpho)syntax, these varieties are known for: (a) the rise of a mass neuter (neo-neuter) class of nouns; (b) an alternating gender value; (c) the extensive use of a dedicated marker to encode the accusative case in highly referential nouns; (d) dual complementizer systems; (e) split intransitivity in auxiliary systems; (f) extensive participial agreement (as well as similar agreement in manner adjectives); and, (g) pseudo-coordination, among other notable phenomena.

Article

Nominal Inflectional Morphology in Germanic: Pronouns  

Stefan Rabanus

Pronouns are words that represent morphosyntactic features of nominal referents located somewhere else in the sentence or the context. They display the highest degree of morphosyntactic exponence in the nominal domain, including features of person, gender, number, case, animacy, and social relationship. The Germanic languages make use of a common set of pronoun roots in order to form the paradigms of demonstrative, personal, reflexive, interrogative, and indefinite pronouns. Selection and inflection are language specific: for example, the Germanic demonstrative pronoun root *þat developed to the uninflected distal demonstrative that in English, while in German it forms part of the inflectional paradigm of the proximal demonstrative der, die, das. Reciprocal, relative, and possessive pronouns do not have autonomous roots; their forms are derived from the previously mentioned classes; compare the English relative pronouns that (< demonstrative), what, who, whose, which (< interrogative). Suppletion occurs in many paradigms, especially with person features, for example, English first person I, second person you. The 13 Germanic standard languages, Icelandic, Faroese, German, Luxembourgish, Yiddish, Danish, Swedish, Bokmål, Nynorsk, Dutch, Frisian, English, and Afrikaans, form a continuum in which Icelandic is closest to the Germanic roots and has most distinctions while Afrikaans has the least. Often the paradigm structure mirrors the geographical subdivision in Scandinavian and West Germanic. However, in some aspects German (and Luxembourgish, Yiddish) cluster with Insular Scandinavian while Mainland Scandinavian is structurally closer to the rest of the West Germanic languages. Adnominal usage of pronouns and their usage as independent constituents is only in rare cases morphologically distinguished, for example, English adnominal possessive your versus independent pronouns yours.

Article

Morphology in Dravidian Languages  

R. Amritavalli

The Dravidian languages are rich in nominal and verbal morphology. Three nominal gender systems are extant. Pronouns are gender-number marked demonstratives. Gender-number agreement in the DP suggests an incipient classifier system. Oblique cases are layered on a genitive stem; iterative genitive and plural marking is seen. Genitive and dative case mark possession/ experience (there is no verb have), and the adjectival use of property nouns. Verbs inflect for agreement (in affirmative finite clauses), aspect, causativity, and benefactivity/ reflexivity. Light verbs are ubiquitous as aspect markers and predicate formatives, as are serial verbs. Variants of the quotative verb serve as complementizers and as topic and evidential particles. Disjunctive particles serve as question particles; conjunctive and disjunctive particles on question words derive quantifiers. Reduplication occurs in quantification and anaphor-formation.

Article

Caucasian Languages  

Marina Chumakina

Languages from at least five genetically unrelated families are spoken in the Caucasus, but there are only three endemic linguistic families belonging to the region: Kartvelian, West Caucasian, and Northeast Caucasian. These families are rather heterogeneous in terms of the number of languages and the distribution of the speakers across them. The Caucasus represents a situation where languages with millions of speakers have coexisted with one-village languages for hundreds of years, and where multilingualism has always been the norm. The richness of Caucasian languages on every linguistic stratum is dazzling: here we find some of the largest consonant inventories, inflectional systems where the mere number of word forms strains credibility (one of the Caucasian languages, Archi, is claimed to have over a million and a half word forms), and challenging syntactic structures. The typological interest of the Caucasian languages and the challenges they present to linguistic theory lie in different areas. Thus, for Kartvelian languages, the number of factors at play in the verbal system make the task of the production of a correct verbal form far from trivial. West Caucasian languages represent an instance of polysynthetic polypersonal verb inflection, which is unusual not only for Caucasus but for Eurasia in general. East Caucasian languages have large systems of non-finite forms which, unusually, retain the ability to realize agreement in gender and number while their non-finite nature is determined by the inability to head an independent clause and to express certain morpho-syntactic categories such as illocutionary force and evidentiality. Finally, all Caucasian languages are ergative to some extent.

Article

Numerals in Morphology  

Ljuba N. Veselinova

This article provides an overview of approaches to numerals within the field of morphology. As is well known, any strict separation between morphology, semantics and syntax is hardly feasible. However, to the extent possible, this study is focused on reviewing approaches to the structural properties of numerals much more than on studies of their uses or integration with other language units. A survey of the pertinent literature shows that there is an imbalance in the study of different kinds of numerals: cardinals have been studied in greater detail than any other kinds of numerals. The morpho-syntactic aspects of cardinal numerals have been discussed in a number of works but corresponding analyses remain in demand for most numeral derivatives, other than ordinals and distributives. Cardinal numerals have been shown to share features with some open word classes, most often with adjectives for the lower members of the set and with nouns for the higher members of the set. However, it has also been pointed out that cardinal numerals remain distinct from other word classes, and this distinction is best described in semantic terms. The use of cardinal numerals as sole or redundant markers of plurality is often related to semantic factors such as animacy and individuation, in some cases also to focus and referentiality. There are different views on whether cardinals in a phrase such as numeral noun should be regarded as heads or not. Among numeral derivatives, complex cardinals, distributive and ordinal numerals have been studied most. There is hardly any comparative work on other known numeral derivations such as multiplicatives, frequentatives, group numerals, approximatives. Currently ongoing projects highlight the cross-linguistic frequency of ordinals and distributives compared to other numerals as well as the need to discuss the basic-derived relation for all numeral derivatives and finally, the relation between numeral derivations and classifier systems on other numeral derivations. Other topics pertinent to the wider topics of numerals in morphology concern the analysis of more derivational patterns and way(s) numerals can be included there as well as operations of conversion whereby numerals are used for the expression of approximate quantities or non-numerical concepts.

Article

Morphology and Pro Drop  

Olaf Koeneman and Hedde Zeijlstra

Many, and according to some estimates most, of the world’s languages allow the subject of the sentence to be unexpressed, a phenomenon known as ‘pro(noun) drop’. In a language like Italian, Gianni parla ‘Gianni speaks’ and Parla ‘(S)he speaks’ are both grammatical sentences. This is in contrast to a language like English, in which not expressing the subject leads to an ungrammatical sentence: *Speaks. The difference between being and not being able to leave the subject unexpressed (or, to put it differently, to have a ‘null subject’) has been related to the richness of the verbal paradigm of a language. Whereas Italian has six different agreement endings in the present tense, English only marks the third-person singular differently (with an -s affix, as in John speak-s). Although this correlation with rich agreement is pervasive, it does not successfully capture all the cross-linguistic variation that is attested. Languages like Japanese and Chinese, for instance, allow unexpressed arguments (including subjects) in the absence of any agreement. For these languages, it has been observed that their pronominal paradigms tend to have transparent, agglutinative nominal morphology, expressing case or number features. Trickier perhaps are languages that allow pro drop under certain conditions only. Some languages, such as Finnish or colloquial variants of German, allow it in certain but not all person/number contexts. Other languages, such as Icelandic, allow the subject to be unexpressed only if it is an expletive, the counterpart of English it (cf. It is raining) or there (There is a man in the garden). For these so-called partial pro drop languages, it is still unclear if one can relate their more restricted absence of overt subjects to other observable properties that they possess.

Article

Passive Periphrases in the Romance Languages  

Adam Ledgeway

Romance periphrastic passives are valency-reducing constructions, involving detransitivization of the clause which is variously manifested in: (a) the defocusing of the Agent through its suppression or demotion to an oblique adjunct; (b) the topicalization and subjectization of an affected non-Agent; and (c) the stativization of the predicate through the use of dedicated verb forms consisting of an auxiliary and nonfinite verb form (viz., participle) which mark the perfective-resultative aspect of the denoted event. Standard and nonstandard Romance varieties present a wealth of periphrastic passive constructions which exhibit a great deal of microvariation, both within individual varieties and across larger areal groupings, in the various formal dimensions of use, meaning, formation, and distribution of the periphrastic passive. These parameters of varation include, among other things, some quite remarkable degrees of diachronic, diatopic, diamesic, and diastratic variation in the distribution and frequency of individual passive periphrases; the choice of passive auxiliary which, in accordance with various syntactic, semantic, and lexical factors, can variously surface as be, become, stay, have, come, go, see, make, remain/stay, want; the distribution of the defocused Agent, especially in relation to a general preference for the so-called short passive, and variation, both diachronic and synchronic, in the formal marking of the defocused Agent both within and across individual Romance varieties; the range and availability of different arguments to undergo subjectization (Theme/Patient > Recipient/Benefactive); the availability and formal properties of the impersonal-passive which, to varying degrees, may enter into competition with a number of the available passive periphrases; the formal licensing conditions operative on participle agreement, in a number of cases linked to the choice of passive auxiliary and the semantic role of the subjectized argument; and the distribution and availability of formal distinctions in the participle to mark the active–passive opposition.

Article

Existential and Locative Constructions in the Romance Languages  

Delia Bentley

Existential and locative constructions form an interesting cluster of copular structures in Romance. They are clearly related, and yet there are theoretical reasons to keep them apart. In-depth analysis of the Romance languages lends empirical support to their differentiation. In semantic terms, existentials express propositions about existence or presence in an implicit contextual domain, whereas locatives express propositions about the location of an entity. In terms of information structure, existentials are typically all new or broad focus constructions. Locatives are normally characterized by focus on the location, although this can also be a presupposed topic. Romance existentials are formed with a copula and a postcopular phrase (the pivot). A wide range of variation is found in copula selection, copula-pivot agreement, expletive subjects, the presence and function of an etymologically locative precopular proform, and, finally, the categorial status of the pivot, which is normally a noun phrase, but can also be an adjective (Calabrian, Sicilian). As for Romance locatives, a distinction must be drawn between, on the one hand, a construction with canonical SV order and S-V agreement and, on the other hand, another construction, with VS order and, in some languages, lack of V-S agreement. This latter structure has been named inverse locative. Both existentials and locatives have a nonverbal predicate: the locative phrase in locatives and the postcopular noun or adjectival phrase in existentials. In locatives the predicate selects a thematic argument (i.e., an argument endowed with a thematic role), which serves as the syntactic subject, exception being made for inverse locatives in some languages. Contrastingly, in existentials, there is no thematic argument. In some languages the copula turns to the pivot for agreement, as this is the only overt noun phrase endowed with person and number features (Italian, Friulian, Romanian, etc.). In other languages this non-canonical agreement is not licensed (French, some Calabrian dialects, Brazilian Portuguese, etc.). In others still (Spanish, Sardinian, European Portuguese, Catalan, Gallo-Italian, etc.), it is only admitted with pivot classes that can be defined in terms of specificity. When the copula does not agree with the pivot, an expletive subject form may figure in precopular position. The cross-linguistic variation in copula-pivot agreement has been claimed to depend on language-specific constraints on subjecthood. Highly specific pivots are only admitted in contextualized existentials, which express a proposition about the presence of an individual or an entity in a given and salient context. These existentials are found in all the Romance languages and would seem to defy the semantico-pragmatic constraints on the pivot that are widely known as Definiteness Effects.