The Syntax of Past Participles. A Generative Study of Nonfinite Constructions in Ancient and Modern Italian

University dissertation from Lund University Press

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is double. First, it will be shown that a number of problems of the syntax of ancient, literary Italian lend themselves readily to an analysis in terms of the Theory of Principles and Parameters. Second, the Italian data, supported by comparative remarks on modern Romance and Germanic, confirm the essential correctness of one particular version of the above theory namely the Antisymmetry framework of Kayne (1994). The issue is predicative past participles in two contexts: A. The past participle in periphrastic constructions with the verb avere 'have', for example, ho chiuso la finestra 'I have closed the window' as opposed to ho la finestra chiusa 'I have the window closed'. B. The past participle in the absolute construction chiuse le finestre, me ne sono andato 'closed the windows, I went out'. The theoretical and empirical problems that will be discussed can be summarized in four general points: functional structure of the participle, word order, agreement patterns, and interpretation especially with regard to Aktionsart or verbal aspect; the analysis will focus on the Affectedness Constraint. It will be argued that the participle clause hosts an agreement projection (AgrOP) and an aspect projection (AspP), but there will also be reason to consider the relevance of Tense and Comp for participial syntax. The discussion of word order will concentrate on the question of how the arguments are placed in relation to the predicate, that is, the placement of S, V, and O. The analysis takes a synchronic perspective, and compares three stages of Italian: the period that runs from the late 13th century to 1400, the first half of the 16th century, and present day standard Italian. These periods of time will be referred to as Medieval Italian and Renaissance Italian, as opposed to Contemporary Italian. It is not the purpose of this thesis to analyze the mechanisms of language change.

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