Home > Catalogue > Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie occidentale > 51 | 2017 > A Comparison of Northern Romance and Occitan ‘Subject’ Clitic Systems

A Comparison of Northern Romance and Occitan ‘Subject’ Clitic Systems

The Null Subject Parameter and the Residues of V2 as V-to-C

Paola Benincà    Università di Padova, Padova, Italia    



Romance languages have complement clitic pronouns that replace the arguments of a verb. Only a sub-area of Romance, extending from France to Northern Italy, also has subject clitics connected to the syntactic subject of an inflected verb. Even though the subject clitic grammar of Northern Romance is extremely varied, a series of absolute and implicational generalizations tells us that the variation is within a single complex system. Inside this sub-area of Romance, the Occitan varieties of Western Piedmont and Southern France at first sight seem to represent another variation of the same system. The aim of this paper is to show that they are radically different from Northern Italian or Northern Romance varieties. The main pieces of evidence are the following: their forms cannot be traced back to corresponding Latin pronouns; the 1st sg. enclitic will be shown to be derived from the grammaticalisation of the complementiser /ke/ ‘that’; these elements are optional, violating the solid implicational generalisations on subject clitics of Northern Romance. Their optionality is consistent with the fact that they appear perform pragmatic functions, connected with [speaker] features. I will propose that Occitan dialects are in fact pro-drop languages with residues of V2 syntax in the form of pragmatic features to check in the left periphery. To meet these V2 requirements, Occitan languages have developed particles; due to the influence of Northern Romance varieties with which they have always been in contact, these particles have been disguised as subject clitics.

Sept. 28, 2017
March 19, 2017
March 13, 2017

Keywords: ParticlesResidual Verb secondPro-dropCliticsOccitan languages

Copyright: © 2017 Paola Benincà. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.