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Structural convergence in finite and infinitival complementation patterns under Salentino-Griko contact

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Schifano, Norma 
Silvestri, Giuseppina 


The competition between infinitival and finite subjunctive subordination represents one of the key features of the Balkan Sprachbund (Joseph 1983; Mišeska Tomić 2004:31). In some languages (e.g. Macedonian) this has led to the loss of the infinitive, whereas in others (e.g. Romanian) it has given rise to a very restricted use of the infinitive. In Salento, where Greek has been spoken since ancient times (Rohlfs 1924; 1974), though not necessarily uninterruptedly (Battisti 1927; Parlangèli 1953; Fanciullo 1997), the infinitive has not been lost in Griko as in other modern Greek varieties (though see Mackridge 1987 and Sitaridou 2014 for Pontic), but continues to the present day, albeit with a restricted distribution. Under the influence of centuries-old contact with Griko, the surrounding Romance varieties show an almost identical development with the infinitive replaced in most contexts by a finite strategy (Ledgeway 2013a). While these basic facts regarding the convergence between Griko and Salentino in their preference for finite over infinitival subordination are well known (cf. Loporcaro 2021:194-198), our understanding of the structural factors which determine the otherwise exceptional survival of the infinitive in a specific set of configurations remains poorly understood, as does the seemingly free alternation between infinitival and finite complementation in causatives. In what follows, we undertake a comparative investigation of infinitival and finite complementation in the Greek and Romance dialects of Salento. At a macro level, we show that the three apparently unrelated contexts in which the infinitive continues to be licensed can all be reduced to a single structural environment, thereby providing unprecedented theoretical insight into the phenomenon of infinitive loss. At the same time, we shall also examine a particular case of divergence between Griko and Salentino in the causative construction, highlighting how our structural conclusions about the distribution of the infinitive allow us to make immediate sense of the alternation between infinitival and finite complementation. The Griko and Salentino data to be discussed come from a combination of existing published sources and from our own fieldwork carried out in loco as part of the Leverhulme-funded project Fading Voices in Southern Italy (



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L’Italia dialettale

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Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2015-283)