Phase-edge properties and complementizer omission

Franco, Irene
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This paper deals with the diachrony of complementizer omission (C-omission) in some Italian clauses. C-omission is restricted to clauses with [-realis] mood in Old as well as in Modern Italian, and to some types of declarative clauses in Modern Florentine (Cocchi & Poletto, 2005). This phenomenon is instead much more pervasive in the Renaissance period (Wanner 1981, Scorretti 1991) and invests basically all types of subordinate clauses. The present study concentrates on C-omission in Renaissance Italian relative clauses, which is attested in both subject and non-subject extractions. There is a subject/non-subject asymmetry in the frequency of C-omission in relative clauses, which is claimed to result from the combination of an active vs. inactive distinction that characterizes both Old and Renaissance Italian, and the loss of V-to-C. The active vs. inactive distinction is attributed to the presence of a strong (*) feature on the low-phase head, v*, in both Old and Renaissance Italian, while the loss of (*) in CP determines the loss of V-to-C in Renaissance Italian only. The argument is corroborated by further comparative facts from Old Occitan and Old French, as well as by a contrast with Old Portuguese and Old Spanish ​
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