Come join the SMircle Workshop on Monday in the Greenberg Room as they welcome Karen Lahousse (KU Leuven) who will discuss her work on verb-subject inversion in French. Her title and abstract are given below.
New arguments in favor of a low analysis for verb-subject inversion in French: on the interplay between syntax and information structure
Verb-nominal subject inversion in French (VS) is subject to a range of constraints having to do with (i) the syntactic structure of the configuration, including the position of the postverbal subject and the way in which (whatever formulation of) EPP is satisfied, (ii) the type of licensing contexts of VS and (iii) the information-structural status of the postverbal subject and the whole construction. Although any account of VS should incorporate these three issues, previous formal-syntactic analyses have concentrated on (i) alone.
In this talk I will present new evidence in favor of the classical ‘low’ analysis for VS (with S being in a low vP internal position, and the V raised lefward past it), and show how the licensing contexts of VS are determined by general information-structural principles interacting with the postverbal subject’s interpretation. Surprisingly, the same licensing contexts hold for impersonal passive constructions, and, thus, seem to be related to the formulation of EPP. A consequence of my proposal is that French VS word order is not radically different from VS in Italian, a welcome conclusion in the light of recent analyses having challenged the pro-drop parameter (which involves a radical distinction between French on the one hand, and Spanish and Italian on the other hand). I will also speculate on the difference between written French, where VS typically occurs, and spoken French, where this is not the case.