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Studies in Formal Linguistics

Universal Patterns and Language Specific Parameters

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Edited By Anna Bloch-Rozmej and Anna Bondaruk

This book investigates the nature and consequences of universal principles in four major grammar components, i.e. syntax, phonology, morphology and semantics. Language specific parameters are held responsible for the attested variation. The papers collected in this book analyse selected phenomena from English, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, and Polish, and shed new light on the interaction of universals and parameters in the structure of individual language systems. The generative framework is adopted as the theoretical model in the majority of contributions.

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Chapter 8 N Morphology and Its Interpretation: Romance -a Plurals (M. Rita Manzini / Leonardo M. Savoia)

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M. Rita Manzini and Leonardo M. Savoia

University of Florence

Chapter 8 N Morphology and Its Interpretation: Romance -a Plurals*

Abstract: This contribution deals with the structure of nominal inflections in Romance, and specifically with the –a inflection in Italian varieties, which realises the plural as well as the feminine singular. Thus the –a inflection externalises apparently irreducible contents (singular/plural). Feminine plural –a alternating with masculine singular characterise Standard Italian and many South-Italian dialects. On the contrary, in some Northern Italian varieties –a characterises feminine singular and plural, while the specialised (-)i plural morphology occurs on determiners. We argue that in both of the languages considered, the –a plural externalises a nominal Class property [aggregate]. We propose that [aggregate] is at the basis of the superficial syncretism between plural and singular/feminine in the occurrence of the –a inflection. Indeed [aggregate] introduces a notion of plurality as aggregate of individuals compatible at least with mass singulars (aggregates of parts). In general, the inflectional vowels of Romance languages, or in any event Italian –a, are not mere byproducts of paradigmatic organisation, but are lexical items, endowed with interpretive content.

Keywords: Gender, number, feminine, plural, syncretism, nominal class, nominal inflections

1. General matters: The nature of N inflections

In the Romance languages, –a inflections are attested both as feminine singular and as plural. In this work, we compare some case studies from Central Calabrian and North-Lombard varieties....

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