On the relationship between sentence focus category, subject-verb order, and genericity

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This paper examines the relationship among sentence focus, subject position (i.e., preverbal vs. postverbal) and genericity in Italian constructions involving two sub-classes of unaccusative verbs. It is shown that with unaccusatives denoting change of location (e.g., arrivare ‘arrive’), subject position depends on the number of arguments selected by the verb and the nature of the locative argument (i.e., overt vs. implicit); specifically, one-argument unaccusatives categorically disallow postverbal subjects, whereas two-argument unaccusatives require postverbal subjects only if the sentence refers to a specific situation and the locative is implicit. In contrast, two-argument unaccusatives selecting an experiencer/dative and a theme/subject argument (e.g., mancare ‘lack; be lacking’), always require postverbal subjects, independently of whether the sentence denotes a generic or a specific situation.


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