Negative Concord in Old Italian/(Negative) indefinites and quantifiers in Old Italian

Publié le 1 septembre 2016 Mis à jour le 26 octobre 2016
le 3 novembre 2016
14 h - 16 h
Salle E411 - Maison de la recherche

Irène Franco - Goethe Universität Frankfurt, Institut für Romanische Sprachen und Literaturen - Séminaire ERSS

Talk 1

Negative Concord in Old Italian (joined work with Olga Kellert, Guido Mensching and Cecilia Poletto)

In this talk I illustrate the complex NC pattern of Old Italian (OI). According to data from the OVI (Opera del Vocabolario Italiano) database OI NC is apparently optional, and there is a clear change around the turn of the XIV century towards a non-strict NC system, like the Modern Italian (MI) one. The apparent NC optionality is illustrated in (1) (see also Garzonio & Poletto 2012).

(1) a.     E    neuno   di voi si    spaventi…

                and of you refl= fear-subv/‘and may none of you get scared…’               (OVI, VeV 69)

      b.      Neuno non andasse poscia in paradiso…(ibid. 78) not went-3sg-subv afterwirds in heaven/‘(so) no one would go to heaven afterwards’

This is in conformity with Martins (2000), who shows that in Old Romance the negative marker is optional with preverbal negatively marked elements (which we call ne-words). However, our data show that this is also the case with postverbal ne-words, see the difference between (2a) and (2b).

(2)          a.            Ma non valse neente

                               but not helped-3sg nothing/‘but it did not help…’ (OVI, VeV 82)

                b.            E fede sanza opera, overo opera sanza fede, è neente a potere aver paradiso

and faith without deed or deed without faith is nothing to can-inf have-inf heaven

‘And faith without deeds or deeds without faith are worth nothing to reach heaven’ (OVI, ibid. 30) 

In OI, the optionality of NC is not due to a competition between two grammars (see Kroch 1989), but can be derived as the output of systematic restrictions within a single grammatical system. NC displays a complex, though clear pattern: Garzonio & Poletto (2012) show that adverbs (e.g. mai (‘never’), mica (lit. ‘crumble’)) always obey strict NC, whereas only arguments obey NC ‘optionally’. The ne-word niente/ne(i)ente (‘nothing’, ‘not at all’), which has both an adverbial, and an argumental reading, can be taken as paradigmatic: it displays obligatory NC when it is an adverb (meaning ‘not at all’), and optional NC when it is an argument. 

Our study explores the NC pattern of more tokens than those previously investigated and reveals that NC is ‘optional’ in a very restricted set of cases. Specifically, no NC is attested a) when ne-words are merged in a copular/existential construction (Cop/Ex), see (2b); b) with verbs that select the preposition da ‘from’ or a ‘to’ see (3); or c) when a NME is embedded inside a manner/reason adverbial PP (e.g. per niente, lit. ‘for nothing’), with an idiomatic meaning. The NC pattern is summarized in (4).


(3)          ...che Dio producesse in essere le cose dal niente.

                that God produced-sbjv in be-inf the things from.the nothing

‘that God created the things in actual existence from nothing’ (OVI, Ottimo Commento 627)  

(4)          a.            Adverbial niente → Obligatory NC

                b.            No NC → Cop/Ex; Verb + da/a; manner/reason PPs


By contrast, NC with preverbal ne-words, although not frequently, is in fact also attested (see 1b) which makes OI resemble a strict NC language, in this respect.

We argue, in the spirit of Déprez’s (2011) proposal for French, that ne-words can have different morphosyntactic structures, which in turn behave differently with respect to NC.

Specifically, we propose that NC depends on:

(i) the different internal structures that morphologically ambiguous ne-words lexicalize, i.e. when the ne-word lexicalizes an NP predicate, see (2b), no NC is expected because the NP does not encode any polarity feature that needs to be licensed (by an anti-veridical operator such as negation, see Giannakidou 1998). By contrast, when the ne-word lexicalizes a structurally more complex item, such as a polarity-sensitive indefinite, NC is expected.

(ii) the syntactic context in which the ne-word occurs. If the ne-word is preverbal, NC is not expected, but may nonetheless occur. A preliminary study seems to indicate that cases in which the preverbal ne-word obeys NC are all cases in which a negation occurs in a non-veridical context. Our working hypothesis is then that the anti-veridical operator (i.e. negation) must be spelled-out to avoid ambiguity in the interpretation of the ne-word’s NPI-licensor (that is to solve the dilemma of interpreting it as either a weak or a strong NPI). Moreover, the syntactic role and the actual position of the preverbal ne-word (i.e. in IP or CP) might also play a role for the existence of NC.



Talk 2

(Negative) indefinites and quantifiers in Old Italian (joined work with Olga Kellert, Guido Mensching and Cecilia Poletto)

This talk illustrates some ongoing research on the syntax and interpretive properties of some Old Italian (OI) indefinites in (anti-/non-)veridical contexts (cf. Giannakidou 1998). OI displays at least two series of elements in negative contexts, i.e. elements containing a negative morpheme (ne-words) and elements that are morphologically non-negative (alcun-words). Alcun-words and ne-words have several functions: they occur as NPIs; existential indefinites or real negative quantifiers. Our study on multiple occurrences of ne-words and alcun-words within the same clause reveals 4 distributional patterns occurring with a different frequency. We argue that the internal structural properties of ne-words and alcun-words are relevant for their syntactic distribution, and their interpretation. When ne-words are negative quantifiers they occur preverbally, whereby they may NPI-license other indefinites lower down in the structure.