N Class and its Interpretation: The Neuter in Central Italian Varieties and its Implications

Ludovico Franco, M. Rita Manzini, Leonardo M. Savoia

Abstract

In this work we will characterize Romance N class morphology as endowed with a semantic content, providing evidence about the active involvement of N class at the syntaxsemantic interface. We will argue that the so-called neuter of Central Italian dialects involves coding of the mass/count distinction by N class morphology. The mass vs. count contrast can be interpreted as the reflex of a more primitive property, which opposes non-individual content to instances of individual denotation, since the -o ‘neuter’ inflection of Central Italian varieties is compatible not only with mass nouns but also with eventive contents and with the invariable inflections found with perfect participles of unergative/transitive verbs. We will show that Mass vs. count semantic content associated to and encoded through N class is available in other Indo-European languages and in genetically unrelated languages and we will support the idea that N class can function as a classifier.

Keywords

nominal class; gender; neuter; Italian dialects; Romance; Syntax

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Copyright (c) 2015 Rita M. Manzini, Ludovico Franco, Leonardo M. Savoia