From passive to impersonal

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In contemporary Italian, there is a passive <i>si</i>-construction in which the patient governs agreement on the verb and an impersonal <i>si</i>-construction in which either the verb is intransitive or the patient is not promoted to subject. The coexistence of the two constructions is the result of a long-lasting process by which an impersonal has developed out of (and has progressively differentiated itself from) an original passive. In this paper we focus on the initial stage of this process, namely the extension of the <i>si</i>-construction to intransitive verbs, and the emergence of the non-agreeing pattern with transitive verbs. Based on a large corpus of literary and non-literary documents, we argue that both these phenomena require a reanalysis of <i>si</i> as a marker of generic human agency as a necessary precondition, and that such a reanalysis starts with patients that are unlikely candidates for subjecthood. Keywords: reanalysis; impersonal passive; non-promotional passive; impersonalization of passive constructions


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