The left-periphery of V2-Rhaetoromance dialects:
a new view on V2 and V3

Cecilia Poletto (Università di Padova)


In this work I analyze V2 and V3 sequences in a Rhaetoromance variety which combines V2 with a complex left periphery typical of Romance languages showing that a split CP perspective can shed light on the apparently bizarre properties of this language. The V2 phenomenon as originally defined by den Besten (1983) for German and Dutch can be split into three distinct syntactic properties:

a) subject inversion,
b) second position of the inflected verb (the so called 'linear restriction')
c) root character of the phenomenon.

In the traditional analysis these three properties are accounted for by assuming that in V2 languages the C° position must always be filled, therefore, in main clauses the inflected verb has to move to the C° position. V to C movement results in subject inversion; moreover, the ban against V2 in embedded contexts is derived by the fact that C° is already filled by the complementizer. The ungrammaticality of V3 sequences also follows because there is only one position available higher than C°, namely SpecC. Subsequent work on Germanic languages has shown that the three properties do not always go together: as for the third property, it has been shown by Santorini (1989), Vikner (1995) (among others) that not all Germanic languages display V2 only in main clauses, Yiddish and Icelandic are so called 'generalized V2' languages, where V2 is possible in all embedded contexts. The second observation which contributes to a further definition of the V2 phenomenon comes from Old Romance languages. Following Benincà´s (1984) proposal for Old French and medieval Northern Italian dialects, it is generally assumed the Old Romance languages were V2, although the root versus embedded asymmetry is not found in Spanish (cf. Fontana (1993)) and Southern Italian varieties. Moreover, Old Italian did not display the typical 'linear restriction' observed in the Germanic domain: in old Italian texts V3 and V4 sequences can be found, although the subject is located in between the auxiliary and the past participle, in the typical inversion pattern of Germanic languages (from now now g-inversion). The parallel beween Old Romance and Germanic is thus based on g-inversion, which becomes the core property defining V2 languages as languages with obligatory V to C movement. Nevertheless, including Old Romance in the set of languages that have the V2 property leaves unexplained why the linear restriction is clearly observed by all Germanic languages, but not by Old Romance. In other words, admitting that Old Romance were also V2 in the tecnical sense that the inflected verb moved to C° captures the parallel behavior of Romance and Germanic varieties concerning g-inversion, but does not say anything concerning the difference, namely the fact that Germanic obeys the linear restriction, Old Romance (except a given stage in Old French) does not. On the other hand, the split CP perspective proposed by Rizzi (1997), and now generally adopted for Romance is not immediately compatible with the way the linear restriction is derived in the 'classical' theory. If the CP layer has to be conceived as a number of distinct functional projections, each hosting a different type of element and checking distinct semantic features, the traditional account of the linear restriction in terms of V to C movement is no longer valid and we need to reformulate it in the new perspective. This is what I will try to do in this paper focussing on a Rhaetoromance dialect, which seems to be an intermediate stage between Old Romance and Germanic, as it displays a restricted set of V3 cases. Starting from a structure like the one proposed in Rizzi (1997) exemplified in (1), I will examine various possibilities to account for the linear restriction of the V2 constraint:

(1) Force...(TOP*) (FOC) (TOP*) Finitness

The first possibility which comes to mind to get hold of the linear restriction is to say that V2 languages do not have this layered CP at all. This has been proposed by Poletto and Tomaselli (1999) for Germanic V2: they assume that the difference between languages which possess a CP layer as the one in (1) and languages which have a single CP projection can be analyzed in terms of Giorgi and Pianesi´s (1997) theory of 'feature scattering': languages have the option of realizing more than one feature on a single head or 'scatter' each feature on a distinct functional head. Rhaetoromance data on V3 sequences described in section 5 show that this is not the case.

The second logical possibility proposed by Poletto (2000) translates the old theory into the new framework basing on den Besten´s intuition that V2 is movement to the highest layer of the sentence: we can assume that although there are several CP projections available, V2 languages have to move an XP and the inflected verb to the CP highest position, namely Force in Rizzi´s framework. Following this line of reasoning, the difference between two languages like, say, Italian and German would consist in an additional requirement of checking some Force feature both in the head and in the specifier of this projection, a contrast which is active in German but not in Italian.

The third logical option has been proposed by Haegeman (1997) and Roberts (1999), who both assume that V2 is not a property of the highest CP position, but a property of the lowest CP, namely Fin°, which encodes the [+/-finiteness] distinction in Rizzi´s theory. Their system runs as follows: V2 languages have to fill the lowest C position by movement or by merge. Verb movement to Fin° is a last resort strategy for checking a strong [+Fin] feature, which is in fact not chosen in embedded contexts, where a complementizer checks the Fin feature. The necessity of the verb 'being second' is derived by two fundamental assumptions: the first one is that all second position phenomena follow from the EPP, which has to be conceived as a general requirement on having a predicative structure as the highest relation in the clause. Hence, EPP requires an XP movement to SpecFin when the verb is in Fin°. This explains why there must be at least one XP in front of the verb.

The second basic claim accounts for the fact that there can be at most one XP in front of the verb implementing relativize minimality in its recent version (cf. Rizzi (2001)) into the analysis of V2: EPP is a feature which, being 'of no particular type in terms of the typology of potential interveners,... is able to block any type of movement' (Roberts (1999):39). Once an XP has moved to SpecFin to satisfy the EPP feature in Fin°, no other element can move to the CP domain without violating minimality. In other words, Fin° constitutes a 'bottle neck' through which only one XP can move. In principle this analysis admits cases of V3 when the first element is base-generated in the CP layer, as left dislocated elements are.

In this paper I will show that:

a) V3 cases are indeed restricted the way Haegeman (1997) and Roberts (1999)    predict;
b) both the XP and the verb move to positions which are higher than Fin° crossing    over sentential particles which are directly merged in the CP domain
c) the necessity to check a strong Force feature in Rhaetoromance but not in Old    Italian accounts for the different distribution of XPs in the Comp domain in these    languages.

In order to derive the particular distribution of V3 instances in the Rhaetoromance dialect of S. Leonardo (from now on Rr), I will adopt a combination of Poletto´s (2000) hypothesis that in Germanic languages the inflected verb raises to a very high position in the CP layer with the Haegeman and Roberts´ idea that the number of XPs moved to the CP layer cannot be more than one, and that this is due to a property of a low CP position.

The paper is organized as follows: in section 2 I illustrate a modification of Rizzi´s theory proposed by Benincą (2001), which is essential to the framework I adopt here. Benincą shows that there is no Topic position lower than the Focus layer, hence all Left dislocated elements are located higher than focalized elements; moreover, inside the 'Topic field' there is a special position for scene setting adverbs, and Focus is a field contaning several projections too. In section 3 and section 4 I discuss further modifications to the split CP structure porposed by Rizzi (1997). In section 5 the number and type of V3 sequences found in Rhaetoromance, are described and discussed. In section 6 I formulate a proposal which captures the distinction between Old Italian and Rr V3 sequences.

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