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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2020

2. Roles and grammatical relations in synchrony and diachrony: the case of the indirect object

Michele Prandi


This chapter aims at discussing whether the indirect object is a pure grammatical relation, ready to host a heterogeneous set of roles, or a motivated coding form of a coherent family of roles. After justifying the choice of the sample of languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Latin and English) and explaining the theoretical assumptions about the autonomy of syntax and its limits, the chapter provides some arguments for the hypothesis that the indirect object is a grammatical relation within the examined languages - namely, the lack of inner coherence of the set of roles associated with the indirect object, the lack of a biunivocal correlation between grammatical relations and roles, and the behaviour of the ditransitive construction when transferred onto two-place verbs. A diachronic section illustrates the shift in coding regime that leads an iconic coding form of expression of a consistent family of allative roles in Latin to become the form of expression of a grammatical relation in Romance languages. The conclusion is that the indirect object is a grammatical relation, which implies that the ditransitive construction is in the first place a formal network of grammatical relations, including a subject, a direct object and an indirect object, filled up with a three-place verb ready to provide any grammatical relation with an argument.

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