Subject Inversion in Romance and the Theory of Universal Grammar

Subject Inversion in Romance and the Theory of Universal Grammar

Subject Inversion in Romance and the Theory of Universal Grammar

Subject Inversion in Romance and the Theory of Universal Grammar

Synopsis

The Romance Languages document remarkable variations in subject word order in different constructions, and have various restrictions in their occurrence. No consensus has emerged on what the paramaters are for such variations. This volume does not attempt to create a consensus, but tries to represent and bring into dialogue the different sides of the debate.

Excerpt

The basic word order of a language is often determined in terms of markedness of discourse contexts. Accordingly, an unmarked word order is one in which all elements of the sentence are equal in discourse: Either they are all new information or they are all old information. a context in which all elements may have the same status in discourse is the answer to a question such as 'what happened?' This question does not presuppose any of the elements that appear in the answer; all of them will, therefore, constitute new information.

The unmarked word order differs cross-linguistically. in this chapter, I am interested in finding out why inverted constructions, in which the subject follows the verb, may be unmarked in some languages but obligatorily marked in others. I focus on the following languages: Portuguese, Spanish, and Greek.

I suggest that variation at the base may be explained and formalized in terms of Emergence of the Unmarked (cf. McCarthy & Prince 1994). in section 1, I present the data to be discussed and the issues raised by the cross-linguistic variation to be observed. in section 2, I introduce the theoretical background: emergence of the unmarked in Optimality Theory. in section 3, I provide an analysis for the facts previously discussed within the premises of Optimality Theory. in section 4, I consider Italian inversion.

Data and Questions

As mentioned, and following standard literature, I consider that unmarked word orders may be identified in answers to the question 'what happened'? (Dik 1978 . . .

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