Evidence for the competition-based analysis of subjunctive obviation from relative and adverbial clauses in Italian

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According to some hypotheses, subjunctive obviation derives from tense dependency; according to others, from the so-called ‘subjunctive-infinitive competition’. These proposals are based on data from argument clauses. However, subjunctive obviation occurs even in nonargument clauses. This article analyses data from relative and adverbial clauses in Italian. The data discussed show that (i) in nonargument clauses obviation displays the same properties as in argument clauses, (ii) only clause types allowing for the infinitive display obviation, (iii) tense-dependent clause types may be obviative or nonobviative. These generalizations prove that a relation between obviation and the availability of infinitive mood holds, while there is no relation between tense dependency and obviation. This provides novel evidence in favor of theories of obviation based on mood competition.


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