The Syntax-Pragmatics Interface in North-Eastern Italian Dialects. Consequences for the Geometry of the Left Periphery

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis investigates a range of phenomena occurring at the syntax-pragmatics interface in four North Eastern Italian Dialects (henceforth NEIDs). The pragmatically motivated V2 system of Lamonat and Sovramontino provides valuable insights on the theoretical debate on the syntax-pragmatics interface, specifically: i) the make-up of the left periphery as the syntactic space that encodes discourse-pragmatic information cross-linguistically, and ii) the status of contrastiveness as a discourse-pragmatic notion. With respect to the first point, Lamonat and Sovramontino left peripheral space is less articulated or, put another way, more constrained than that of Friulian and Fornese, namely the other NEIDs under investigation in this thesis. The V2 constraint dictates certain restrictions in the make-up of the CP space: for example, the unavailability of clitic left dislocation of non-contrastive topics. In discourse-pragmatics terms, the left periphery seems to privilege elements that concern the management rather than the content of the interlocutors’ common ground. Despite the allegedly language-specific make-up of the C-domain, the actual left peripheral functional projections and their hierarchical order seem to be candidates for universal features of human language. As far as contrastiveness is concerned, Lamonat and Sovramontino show that it should be regarded as a complex discourse-pragmatic notion which is orthogonal to the topic-focus divide. More specifically, it should not be considered to be a discrete notion, but a continuum, in which the degree of contrastiveness is determined by the properties of the set containing the contrastive element with respect to the size and accessibility of alternatives. The present account offers a straightforward alternative for the analysis of wh-in-situ in Bellunese, whereby non-canonical constituent order in syntax is dictated by discourse-pragmatic needs. The present work also provides a new perspective on V2 as a syntax-pragmatics interface phenomenon: in the V2 system of Lamonat and Sovramontino, T-to-C movement is dictated by the discourse-pragmatic saliency of the fronted element. In fact, verb movement without the fronting of a salient XP in the C-space does not take place. Notwithstanding its discourse-pragmatic specialisation, the V2 system of Lamonat and Sovramontino is very likely a direct continuation of Medieval Romance V2. Finally, the V2 syntactic-pragmatic constraint of Lamonat and Sovramontino is not found in Friulian and Fornese. In these two NEIDs, residual V2 is in fact only manifested in T-to-C movement in root interrogatives and narrow focal element-verb adjacency in root declaratives.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDelia Bentley (Supervisor) & Julio Villa-García (Supervisor)

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