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

Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie Occidentale. 2017;51(1) DOI 10.14277/2499-1562/AnnOc-51-17-10


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie Occidentale

ISSN: 2499-2232 (Print); 2499-1562 (Online)

Publisher: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari

Society/Institution: Ca'Foscari University of Venice

LCC Subject Category: Language and Literature: Philology. Linguistics: Language. Linguistic theory. Comparative grammar

Country of publisher: Italy

Language of fulltext: Russian, French, Portuguese, English, Italian, Dutch, German, Spanish

Full-text formats available: PDF



Benincà, Paola (Università di Padova, Padova, Italia)


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 32 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

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.