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Summary Details

Query:   Sum: Nested restructuring in Italian
Author:  Eva-Maria Remberger
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Syntax

Summary:   Dear linguists,
August 15th I posted a query about nested restructuring constructions in Italian. I am here posting the summary. Thanks a lot to those who were so kind to reply, namely:
Giampaolo Poletto
Giancarlo Buoiano
Cristiano Broccias
Roberta D'Alessandro
Philippa Cook

My original query can be found at:

The answers given did not really solve my problem because the data really seem to be quite controversial amongst the native speakers of Italian. One fact appears to be clear: Not all speakers accept Burzio (1986)'s example (1). The problem seems to be more complex then he describes.

Giampaolo Poletto presents a variation of (2) involving a non-argumental reflexive clitic which seems to be acceptable:
(3) Maria se li sarebbe voluti andare a prendere lei stessa.

Giancarlo Buoiano judges (2) hard but grammatical, while (1) seems ungrammatical to him. He also presents a variation to (2) with _dovere_ instead of _volere_ judged equally ungrammatical:
(2') *Maria li sarebbe dovuti tornare a prendere lei stessa
while the same variant of (1) seems acceptable in many contexts:
(1) Maria li avrebbe dovuti tornare a prendere lei stessa

Cristiano Broccias says that (1) sounds perfect to him, whereas (2), on first reading, sounded unacceptable (i.e. he agreed with Burzio's judgments). However, after having read (2) a second time and having ''understood'' that _sarebbe_ is
there because of _andare_, the sentence sounded much better. The more you repeat (2), the more it becomes acceptable as is often the case with contrived sentences.

Roberta D'Alessandro judges (1) as completely ungrammatical, while (2) is acceptable to her, although the only way she would utter that sentence is (interestingly, with the clitic half way up):

(iii) Maria avrebbe voluto andarli a prendere lei stessa.

She thinks that the varying judgements depend on the area a native speaker is from because there is a lot of variation in the field of clitic climbing.

Concerning restructuring in a sequence of verbs which select AVERE-ESSERE-ESSERE where the clitic climbs from the deepest embedded clause to the matrix she proposes the following example:


(iv) Si sarebbe potuto andare a lavare
(v)* Si avrebbe potuto andare a lavare

Philippa Cook's comments gave me insights in the related phenomenon of coherent/non-coherent infinitives in German. Anyway, her detailed explanations would go beyond the concerns of this summary.

- The sequence ''li sarebbe voluti'' in example (2) sounds in fact very rare to Italian speakers because the auxiliary ESSERE automatically is associated with an internal argument (direct object) which has been raised to subject position. The accusative clitic therefore contradicts the reader's expectation of a raised object. (Just note: reflexives are less hard to accept because they probably are connected mainly to the subject-theta-role.) This might suggest that the judgements above could be independent from the hierarchy of nested restructuring proposed by Burzio.
- Regional variation may in fact be the reason for the controversial judgements: Following the Grande Grammatica di Consultazione, in Central Italy and Toscana, both the restructured derivation as well as the non restructured derivation, seems to be accepted. In Northern Italy only the unrestructured derivation seems to be in use (the restructured one having a high stylistic connotation) while in Southern Italy the more common construction is the restructured one. Therefore it can be supposed that regional variation in judgements about nested restructuring varies even more (Renzi/Salvi, GGIC, vol.II:514).

Further comments are welcome.
Best wishes and thanks again to those who replied,
Eva-Maria Remberger

LL Issue: 13.2304
Date Posted: 13-Sep-2002
Original Query: Read original query


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