Syntax Interface Lectures Utrecht


30 March 2023
16:00 - 17:00
MS Teams

Caterina Donati (LLF, CNRS)

Reduced structures and invisible agreement
(joint work with Carlo Cecchetto)

Cecchetto & Donati 2022 (C&D) propose an analysis of a number of reduced structures in Italian which builds on Chomsky’s (2019) claim that sentences can be exocentric. The five Italian structures analyzed by C&D all involve the past participle of unaccusative and passive verbs, which agrees in gender and number with the internal argument. They are clearly reduced: they display no external argument, no case, no tense, no negation, no wh-movement or focus. However, they can have illocutionary force. C&D argue that only a VP is projected, where the unaccusative verb assigns a theta role to its sole argument, which, being a bare NP (as opposed to a DP), does not need case. This NP moves to the edge of the VP as the result of the probing of the past participle. Thanks to agreement, the structure can be labeled by feature sharing, which the interface interprets by default as sentential (Chomsky 2019).
The existence of structures like the sequence in bold in (1), which has illocutionary force and contains a bare NP followed by a PP rather than by a past participle, is a challenge to this account.

(1) (Andate al cinema?) Sì, bambini dalla nonna!
You-go to-the movie? Yes, kids to-the grandma
(‘Do you go to watch a movie? Yes, the kids stay with grandma!’)

Here no agreement is observed as no past participle surfaces. Therefore, the resulting N + PP structure should not be labeled at all. Still, it exhibits a sentential reading. Yet, we shall defend an analysis involving a null agreeing participial corresponding to the past participial of stare, which, we argue, is necessarily covert given that stato has been “colonized” by the defective copula be.