Microvariation in the resolution of pronominal subjects in Romance: European Portuguese vs. Italian

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Abstract

This study investigates how adult native speakers of two null subject Romance languages, European Portuguese (EP) and Italian, interpret null and overt pronominal subjects in intrasentential contexts. Participants were 30 speakers of EP and 30 of Italian. Each language group was administered two multiple-choice tasks (speeded and untimed), which crossed the following variables: ‘animacy of the matrix object’ ([+ human] vs. [- human]) and ‘type of pronominal embedded subject’ (overt vs. null).

Our results show that there is microvariation in the resolution of overt pronominal subjects in EP and in Italian: the position of the antecedent is the most relevant factor in EP, whereas, in Italian, the animacy of the antecedent is the preponderant factor. Moreover, our results reveal that the resolution of null subjects is an area of microvariation: the bias for subject antecedents is weaker in Italian than in EP. Possible reasons for the observed microvariation are discussed in detail.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalIsogloss
Volume8
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Microvariation
  • Anaphora resolution
  • Animacy
  • Null subject
  • Romance languages

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