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Syntax Interface Lectures Utrecht


1 February 2021
16:00 - 17:00
MS teams

Alberto Frasson (Utrecht University)

The role of interfaces in the antecedent selection of subject clitics

In this talk I investigate the realisation and the interpretation of subject clitics in different types of subordinate clauses in Venetan, a northern Italo-Romance language.

The study of subject clitics has been one of the main topics in Italian generative syntactic analyses since the early 1980’s. Subject clitics of the Venetan type have traditionally been analysed as inflectional heads, on a par with verbal morphology: they are φ-agreement markers, realised every time a finite verb appears.

In this study I focus on interface properties of Venetan subject clitics in three varieties of the language. I show that subject clitics can encode discourse-related properties and that their realisation in the contexts of topic shift and obviation depends on the presence of a discourse feature. In this sense, they display a behaviour comparable to that of full subject pronouns and, crucially, not compatible with an analysis as inflectional heads.

I propose that this analysis can be extended to the whole system of Venetan subject pronouns: the presence of a discourse feature can explain the distribution of null and overt subjects and their interpretation with respect to possible antecedents.

Building on Sundaresan (2013), I further propose a two-step model for antecedent selection: there is no direct link between the pronominal form in the subordinate and the antecedent in the matrix clause, the relationship is always mediated by a null operator in the subordinate Spec-CP. Such operator is linked to a discourse antecedent in the matrix clause and assigned a discourse feature; it subsequently establishes a syntactic dependency with the pronominal form in the subordinate clause.