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Syntax Interface Lectures Utrecht


10 March 2020
16:00 - 17:00
Muntstraat 2a, 1.11

Alexandru Nicolae (Iorgu Iordan – Al. Rosetti Institute of Linguistics / University of Bucharest)

Old Romanian discontinuous nominal constituents and their theoretical relevance


A well-known fact about the medieval phase of the Romance languages is that they residually attest discontinuous nominal constituents (hyperbata, in traditional philological terminology) (see Ledgeway 2012, 2018 and references therein). The examination of Old Romanian reveals a previously unnoticed fact about the internal syntax of these constructions, namely that discontinuous DPs are available even when the DP is definite, as illustrated by (1) below:


(1)       [A        duhului           svântu]I           dă-ne [DP ti                            darurile]

al.inv   spirt.def.gen    holy                 give.imp.2sg=cl.dat.1pl           gifts.def.acc

‘Give us the gifts of the holy spirit’ (old Romanian; FT.1571-5:2r)


Data like those in (1) stand in need of an analysis because they go against generalisations previously established in the literature. The (un)availability of discontinuous DPs has been generally related in traditional scholarship and in more recent work in generative grammar (e.g. Bošković 2005, 2009, Bošković and Gajewski 2011) to the absence of articles; in a nutshell, there is a distinction between NP-languages (Latin) and DP-languages (Romance), and syntactic discontinuity is available only in the former type, as the barierhood effect instantiated by the projection of the DP-layer is absent in NP-languages. By contrast, Ledgeway (2012, 2018) argues that the availability of discontinuous DPs (and other hyperbata), along with edge-fronting, is related to the head-directionality parameter: the existence of head-finality in a given grammar allows for the fronting to the edge of DP-internal constituents and, upon reaching the DP-edge, for their further movement to different left-peripheral positions in the clausal domain, giving rise to discontinuous DPs (cf. Szabolcsi 1983 for Spec,DP as an escape hatch). The gist of Ledgeway’s analysis is that fronting to the DP-edge is based on the availability of short, antilocal movement; assuming Kayne’s (1994) antisymmetric model, head-final structures are derived from corresponding head-initial structures by moving the complement across the head to a derived inner specifier (i.e. roll-up movement). Defined as such, roll-up movement is by default an antilocal type of movement, hence the relation between movement to the DP-edge (and syntactic discontinuity) and head-finality.

In this paper, I bring evidence for the Ledgeway-style analysis and I show that the old Romanian data actually confirm that the relation between the development of articles and the disappearance of discontinuous constituents (in the passage from Latin to Romance) is at most epiphenomenal.


Selected references: Bošković, Ž (2009). ‘More on the no-DP analysis of article-less languages’; Bošković, Ž. (2005). ‘Left branch extraction, structure of NP, and scrambling’; Bošković, Ž., Gajewski, J. (2011). ‘Semantic correlates of the NP/DP parameter’; Cornilescu, Alexandra, Nicolae, A. (2011). ‘On the syntax of Romanian definite phrases: Changes in the patterns of definiteness checking’; Giusti, G. (2010). ‘Il sintagma aggettivale’; Iovino, R. (2016). ‘Osservazioni diacroniche sulle espressioni nominali discontinue dal latino alle lingue romanze’; Kayne, R. (1994). The Antisymmetry of Syntax; Koopman, H. (1996). ‘The Spec-Head configuration’; Ledgeway, A. (2012). From Latin to Romance. Morphosyntactic Typology and Change; Ledgeway, A. (2017). ‘The Romanian definite article in a comparative Romance perspective’; Ledgeway, A. (2018). ‘On the decline of edge-fronting from Latin to Romance’; Nicolae, A. (2015). ‘The parameter of definiteness: Diachronic and synchronic evidence’; Nicolae, A. (2019). Word Order and Parameter Change in Romanian; Pesetsky, D., Torrego, E. (2007). ‘The syntax of valuation and the interpretability of features’; Poletto, C. (2014). Word Order in Old Italian; Szabolcsi, A. (1983). ‘The possessor that ran away from home’; Williams, E. (1982). ‘Another argument that passive is transformational’; Zwarts, F. (1974). ‘On restricting base structure recursion in Dutch’.