Eventive existentials in Catalan and the topic-focus articulation

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The role of codas in existential sentences has been a matter of debate since the early 70's, but under this label a quite heterogeneous set of material has been included, leading to much misplaced discussion. A case which is so far unresolved is that of eventive existential sentences: Yesterday, there was a live pig roasted. This existential construction asserts the existence of a situation involving the pivot (a live pig) and the coda (roasted) rather than just the existence of the individual denoted by the pivot. In this article I will revisit this construction in light of partially unattested data from Catalan, a Romance language which is well-known for showing a systematic violation of the Definiteness Effect in existentials. I will concentrate on extraction facts and information structure to show that recent proposals favouring a small clause analysis of eventive existentials in Catalan (Leonetti 2008) are weak on syntactic grounds, and inconsistent on semantic and informational grounds. Given this evidence, I will defend a VP-adjunct analysis of codas in eventive existentials, where both the pivot and the coda form part of the assertion, and a null stage topic, optionally restricted by an overt locative, counts as the topic of the sentence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-173
JournalItalian Journal of Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

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