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Current Issues in Italian, Romance and Germanic Non-canonical Word Orders

Syntax – Information Structure – Discourse Organization


Anna-Maria De Cesare and Davide Garassino

This volume aims at offering an up-to-date survey on non-canonical word orders and their interplay with information structure and discourse organization. The contributions analyze different non-canonical syntactic structures (fronting, inversion, dislocations, and cleft constructions), focusing on Italian alone or on Italian in a contrastive perspective with one or more Romance (French, Romanian, Portuguese, Spanish) and/or Germanic (English and German) languages. The authors tackle the main issue of the volume from a variety of perspectives and by relying on different theoretical frameworks. At the same time, they all offer a fine-grained description of the structures analyzed on the basis of a solid empirical foundation.
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Using cleft sentences in Italian and English. A multifactorial analysis


Abstract: The aim of this paper is to provide a quantitative-based research on the linguistic properties that favor the use of cleft sentences in Italian and English. The empirical analysis relies on a comparable multilingual corpus of online journalistic texts. Syntactic, semantic and pragmatic factors are taken into consideration: the syntactic category and function of the clefted constituent, its animacy and information status as well as the information status of the cleft clause and the discourse-pragmatic functions of the structure. The probabilistic ‘weight’ of each factor is assessed by means of multifactorial statistical techniques. By doing so, it is possible to precisely evaluate the most significant differences (and similarities) between Italian and English in a contrastive fashion.

1    Introduction

The aim of this paper is to offer a contrastive perspective on the use of cleft sentences in Italian and (British) English on the basis of data drawn from a comparable corpus of online newspapers. Although the literature on cleft sentences in both languages is immense, and several works devoted to contrastive studies of Italian and English already exist,2 a multifactorial enquiry dealing with variables belonging to different language domains has not been conducted yet. Syntactic, semantic and pragmatic variables will be taken into account in order to give a picture of the main similarities and differences between the two languages.

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