Linguistics in Göttingen - A platform for empirical and theoretical linguistics

Cecilia Poletto (Frankfurt) - The Puzzle of Old Italian Negative Concord

In this talk I will investigate how negative concord developed in Old Italian, which has a very peculiar pattern, since it seems to swing between a double negation and a negative concord language: as noticed by Martins (2001), OI displays optional negative concord with the negative marker with preverbal but a rather surprising fact which was never noticed in the literature is that it can avoid negative concord also with postverbal n-words. I will show that this astonishingly complex pattern is not due to grammar in competition, but can be accounted for by the interaction of two factors: a general condition on the procedure of Agree that in OI stops at phase edges and the internal structure of n-words themselves (which partly determines its position). I will concentrate on the n-word corresponding to 'nothing' showing that a very regular pattern emerges once adverbial usages are kept apart from argumental usages, since adverbials always display negative concord, while arguments can avoid it. The apparent optionality of negative concord with arguments will be accounted for in terms of different positions that arguments can take in OI: when they remain in the VP, no negative concord is found, when they raise to the vP edge or higher, than negative concord is found.