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Word-final schwa licensed by prosody and syntax: evidence from southern Italian dialects

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Silvestri, Giuseppina  ORCID logo


Empirical evidence from dialects of northern Calabria and southern Basilicata challenges the generalization whereby in upper-southern Italian dialects all final atonic vowels, with the only possible exception of -/a/, underwent a centralization which resulted in schwa. This paper shows that the overt articulation of schwa is only one of the two possible outcomes of the neutralization process which, crucially, can also result in the alternating deletion of the original vocalic segment. I will show that the alternation between schwa and zero phoneme, far from being optional, is crucially tied to specific prosody of the utterance expressing, in turn, interrogative and exclamative modality with a pragmatically marked stance. After the assessment of the results of the instrumental acoustic evaluation of the prosodic features interacting with the insertion of schwa, the interplay between the phonological, syntactic and pragmatico-semantic domains will be discussed in the light of the assumptions of formal syntax on the information structure of the sentence. This contribution proves how novel data from Italo-Romance, in particular from the traditionally called ‘Area Lausberg’ (Lausberg 1939), provide more support to the reality of the phonology-syntax interface (Selkirk 1984, 2001, 2011).



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Rivista di Grammatica Generativa

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