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Title: Existential constructions in the early italio-romance vernaculars
Author: Ciconte, Francesco Maria
ISNI:       0000 0004 2688 1002
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis analyses existential constructions in the early Italo-Romance vernaculars based on evidence from a relatively large corpus of texts dating from C13th to C16th • Our principal findings concern (i) the complementary distribution of the pro-form and the locative phrase in early Tuscan; (ii) the emergence of the pro-form in existentials with overt encoding of definiteness; (iii) the presence of an optional expletive which, particularly in Tuscan, does not have subject properties. With respect to (i), the available data indicate that, while in early Tuscan the pro-form and the locative phrase cannot co-occur within the same clause, thus suggesting that, at this stage, the former exclusively encodes a locative argument, in early Sicilian the pro-form and the locative phrase are not in complementary distribution. This would seem to indicate that the pro-form has been reanalysed into a marker of existentiality which joins with the copula to spell out an existential predicate, as is the case with Modem Italian (Bentley 2006). As for point (ii), the available data show that, while the Latin-based pattern [Copula][Noun phrase], i.e., Fue uno filosofo, '(There)was a philosopher' (Novellino, LXXVIII, p. 89), is maintained in existentials with an indefinite pivot, the structure invariably exhibits a locative element if the postcopular nominal is definite; thus, the type [Copula][Definite Noun phrase] is never attested. This fmding suggests that definite pivots are subject to a deictic anchoring condition, whereby the definite noun phrase must be accompanied by a locative element - be it a locative phrase or, crucially, a pro-form - to occur in the existential construction. Therefore, we claim that the emergence of the existential pro-form in Romance is motivated by the encoding of definiteness. The overt marking of definiteness, which differentiates Romance from its ancestor Latin, favours the establishment of an existential pattern where the encoding of putatively canonical subjects (definite pivots) is licensed by a locative anchor. From having the status of locative licenser of definiteness, the pro-form is thereafter reanalysed as an obligatory marker of existentiality and extended to all existential types. As for point (iii), the existentials of early Tuscan exhibit an optional expletive, which, however, is not related to the other constituents of the clause, in that it neither controls agreement on the copula nor is co-referential with the pivot, e.g., Egli ci sono dell 'altre donne, 'There are some other women' (Decameron, III, 3, 13, p. 243). This suggests that the expletive does not have subject properties. Its presence, however, can be accounted for in semantic and stylistic terms.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available