On the distribution of subject properties in formulaic presentationals of Germanic and Romance

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The present study deals with the distribution of subject properties in &#8216;formulaic&#8217; presentational constructions such as Engl. <i>there is</i> NP, Fr. <i>il y&#8217;a</i> NP and Span. <i>hay</i> NP, approaching the problem from a diachronic-typological perspective. Nine major types of presentational constructions are distinguished by cross-classifying the three-valued parameters &#8216;type of existential predicate&#8217; and &#8216;type of expletive&#8217;. Moreover, a language-level parameter is introduced which distinguishes languages allowing verb-initial order in thetic sentences (&#8216;thetic-V1 languages&#8217;) from languages disallowing such an order (&#8216;thetic-XV languages&#8217;). It is shown that thetic-XV languages tend to use expletives in their existential formulas, which attract subject properties and qualify as impersonal. By contrast, thetic-V1 languages often do not use expletives at all, and if they do, these do not attract subject properties. The corresponding constructions are consequently not impersonal. Accordingly, a correlation can be established between the parameters &#8216;thetic-XV&#8217; vs. &#8216;thetic-V1&#8217;, on the one hand, and &#8216;impersonal presentational&#8217; vs. &#8216;personal presentational&#8217;, on the other.Keywords: presentative; presentational; expletive; existential; thetic


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