On the Semantics of Pronominal Clitics and some of its Consequences

Denis Delfitto


Recent work on the acquisition of the binding conditions suggests that pronominal clitics (PCs) encode the presence of an unsaturated argument position. In other words, PC-constructions encode functional abstraction: the argument position related to the PC is re-opened. This inter- pretation represents a radical departure from traditional analyses (in virtually every syntactic framework, including HPSG and Principles&Parameters), which take PCs to reduce the valence of the predicate to which they are linked, either in the lexicon (HPSG) or in syntax (P&P). In this contribution, I will provide conceptual and empirical motivation for this radical reinterpre- tation of PC-constructions, by claiming that it considerably enhances the prospects of explana- tory adequacy in (at least) the following domains: (a) the acquisition data relative to Principle B Effects in Romance languages; (b) the familiar vs. bound-variable interpretation of PCs; (c) the diachronic relationship between clitic left-dislocation constructions (CLLD) and PC-construc- tions; (d) the properties of Romance CLLD which are still in need of a deep conceptual account, like the (optional) presence of a resumptive clitic and the recursive nature of the topic projec- tions in the left-periphery.


pronominal clitics, interface conditions, interpretable features, topicalization, left periphery, locality effects, resumptive clitics

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Copyright (c) 2002 Denis Delfitto