Syntax – Information Structure – Discourse Organization
Verb-subject inversion in Romance; the other way round
Abstract: In this article we compare verb-subject (VS) constructions in Italian with those in French, and argue that, contrary to what has been often assumed, the structure and interpretation of VS word order in French and Italian are only superficially different, and, hence, cannot be said to reflect the existence of a parameter distinguishing both languages. We examine different types of VS word order in French and Italian and argue that there are surprising similarities that have to be acknowledged. We then conclude that the relation between the VS-cases in French and Italian can be seen as a subset-relation: VS in French occurs in a subset of (often fossilized) VS-contexts in Italian, but is not systematically divergent in order to warrant an analysis in terms of different parameter settings.
In general, studies on word order in Romance start from an Italian and Spanish perspective, and then oppose French to these languages. Italian and Spanish on the one hand and French on the other hand indeed display a striking contrast between the so-called “free inversion” structures, typical for Italian and Spanish, and their absence in French, see (2):
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