Volume 58, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0035-3906
  • E-ISSN: 1600-0811
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In this article we study the alternation between the two most prominent Italian thetic and sentence-focus constructions, viz. the Syntactic Inversion Construction (henceforth: SIC), e.g. (‘The train is arriving’), and the Presentational Cleft (henceforth: PC), e.g. (‘The train is arriving’). Based on the existing literature on the two constructions and drawing inspiration from a number of cognitive-functional hypotheses pertaining to constraints on the amount of referentially new constituents that can be conveyed in a single clause, we put forward the hypothesis that Italian language users are more likely to prefer the PC over the SIC if the utterance involves a high number of referentially new constituents. To assess this hypothesis, we constructed a pilot experiment consisting of a 100-split forced choice task that was administered by means of an online questionnaire to 66 native speaker participants. The results of the experiment indicate that the preference for the PC indeed increases if the number of referentially new constituents is higher. This is however not the only factor involved in the alternation and the preference of the language users seems not only to be determined by the number of referentially new constituents, but also by their syntactic status.


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