R-impersonals are linguistic devices conveying a human and non-referential subject. In Italian, R-impersonality can be realized through impersonal si and third-person plural pro (3pl pro). These two elements have received much attention over the last four decades, but a clear pattern in their areas of semantic specialization across R-impersonal contexts has yet to emerge. To fill this gap, this study proposes a systematic comparative analysis between si and 3pl pro. Differently from other subjects with [+human] reference, both si and 3pl pro conform to the defining properties of impersonal pronouns. However, semantically, they differ in many respects: si is favored in quasi-universal contexts, 3pl pro in quasi-existential contexts. Even when they seem to overlap in some R-impersonal contexts, slightly different interpretations are conveyed. Impersonal si abstracts away from the properties of individuals and generalizes over situations. I propose that its domain can be restricted through the specification of situational properties, namely spatio-temporal coordinates defining the relevant situation to which the generalization applies. Antecedentless 3pl pro implies the existence of an individual or collective referent. In this case, I suggest that the R-impersonal domain may be expanded through the specification of individual properties, shared by all the members of the relevant set of individuals.

Impersonal subjects in Italian: A comparative analysis of si and third-person plural

Lara Mantovan
2022

Abstract

R-impersonals are linguistic devices conveying a human and non-referential subject. In Italian, R-impersonality can be realized through impersonal si and third-person plural pro (3pl pro). These two elements have received much attention over the last four decades, but a clear pattern in their areas of semantic specialization across R-impersonal contexts has yet to emerge. To fill this gap, this study proposes a systematic comparative analysis between si and 3pl pro. Differently from other subjects with [+human] reference, both si and 3pl pro conform to the defining properties of impersonal pronouns. However, semantically, they differ in many respects: si is favored in quasi-universal contexts, 3pl pro in quasi-existential contexts. Even when they seem to overlap in some R-impersonal contexts, slightly different interpretations are conveyed. Impersonal si abstracts away from the properties of individuals and generalizes over situations. I propose that its domain can be restricted through the specification of situational properties, namely spatio-temporal coordinates defining the relevant situation to which the generalization applies. Antecedentless 3pl pro implies the existence of an individual or collective referent. In this case, I suggest that the R-impersonal domain may be expanded through the specification of individual properties, shared by all the members of the relevant set of individuals.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/3749346
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