An indefinite maze: on the distribution of partitives and bare nouns in the Northern Italian dialects



Some Romance languages, like Spanish, encode narrow scope indefinite objects without any over determiner (Bare Nouns; como pan ‘I eat bread’), while others, like French, require the insertion of an overt prenominal marker, labeled Partitive Article (PA; je mange du pain ‘I eat bread’). This asymmetry has been related to overt number marking on the noun (Delfitto & Schroter, Stark 2016 a.o.), leading to the hypothesis that number morphs on N license indefinite arguments and that PAs appear in those languages in which they are absent. Languages as Italian, in which narrow scope indefinites can be introduced both by BNs and PAs, challenge this hypothesis. By enlarging the view to Northern Italian Dialects, we update the correlation with number marking (the relevant factor being the absence of number morphs on masculine Ns) and show that Italian-like languages are not problematic, once we develop an analysis of the alternation between PAs and BNs in these languages in terms of two kinds of indefinites, differentiated by the presence/absence (PAs/BNs) of a feature (tentatively identified as a Choice function, Reinhart 1997).


Partitive articles, Bare nouns, Italian Dialects, indefinites, microvariation


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Author Biographies

Francesco Pinzin, Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main

Institut für Romanische Sprachen und Literaturen

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter

Research interests: Morphosyntax, Italian Dialects, Latin, Voice alternations, Verbal morphology, Nominal morphology

Cecilia Poletto, Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main Università degli studi di Padova

Institut für Romanische Sprachen und Literaturen




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