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The Development of Exceptional Case Marking in Romance with a Particular Focus on French

Michelle Sheehan
From the journal Probus

Abstract

This paper traces the development of so-called Exceptional Case Marking (ECM) under perception, permissive and causative verbs in Romance. Synchronically, we can observe various patterns in the distribution of ECM complements under these verbs. In Portuguese and Spanish, ECM is often possible under all permissive and causative verbs, whereas in French, Catalan and Italian it is usually restricted to perception and permissive verbs. A detail that has not been much discussed is the fact that, for many speakers, ECM with a given verb is often restricted to contexts in which the embedded ‘subject’ is a clitic. Some speakers of Modern French display this pattern with the verb faire ‘make’, for example (Abeillé, Anne, Danièle Godard & Philip Miller. 1997. Les causatives en français : Un cas de compétition syntaxique. Langue Française 115. 62–74. https://doi.org/10.3406/lfr.1997.6222). In this paper, I claim that laisser ‘let’ probably also displayed this pattern in Middle French. In Old French, however, what appears to be the opposite pattern is observed. Following (Pearce, Elizabeth. 1990. Parameters in Old French syntax: Infinitival complements. Dordrecht: Kluwer), I attribute this to the morphological variability of dative case in Old French. I propose a case-based analysis of the clitic ECM pattern, whereby ECM complements in Romance are phases unlike clause union complements (see Sheehan, Michelle & Sonia Cyrino. 2018. Why do some ECM verbs resist passivisation? A phase-based explanation. In Sherry Hucklebridge & Max Nelson (eds.), Proceedings of NELS 48 (vol 3), 81–90. University of Massachusetts). Where such complements are embedded under light verbs, the Phase Impenetrability Condition (Chomsky, Noam. 2001. Derivation by phase. In Michael Kenstowicz (ed.), Ken hale: A life in language, 1–52. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press) prevents accusative case from being assigned to the lower subject except in instances of cliticization. When the matrix verb is reanalysed as a full verb, however, v becomes the case-assigning head and so ECM becomes generally available, regardless of the clitic/non-clitic status of the causee.


Corresponding author: Michelle Sheehan, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK, E-mail:

This work was inspired by joint work with Sonia Cyrino, Ana Pineda and Norma Schifano. Thanks to all of them for being so inspiring! Thanks also to Gigi Andriani, András Bárány, Anders Holmberg, David Pesetsky, Rodrigo Ranero, Ian Roberts, Maggie Tallerman, Sten Vikner, Jenneke van der Wal, Jim Wood and especially Adam Ledgeway, for discussing aspects of this work with me. Thanks also to Louise Raynaud for helping with the French data. All errors are my own, of course.


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Published Online: 2020-09-29
Published in Print: 2020-11-18

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