16. Italian motion constructions

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This chapter addresses the variety of motion expressions in an intra-linguistic and diachronic perspective, focusing on the lexicalisation patterns of Path in Italian and on the problematic notion ‘satellite’. Some of the constructions observed in Italian are explained as a continuation from Latin, in which the combination of vital and transparent verbal prefixes, prepositions, and inflectional cases gives rise to at least three different but apparently equivalent constructions. Italian has undergone a process of loss of the case system, and prepositions are the instrument by which this damage has been repaired. This produced a dissociation between the semantic-functional and the syntactic role of prepositions, which makes it difficult to distinguish prepositions expressing Path (satellites) from semantically weaker ones, fulfilling the role of prepositional case markers (PCM). A set of semantic and grammatical discrimination criteria are proposed. The category of satellite appears to be fuzzy and scalable in its nature, rather than an all-or-nothing one.


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