Right dislocation as a biclausal phenomenon. Evidence from romance languages

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


This dissertation deals with the syntax of right dislocation (RD) with an empirical focus on Romance languages. In RD structures, a constituent (the dislocated phrase or D for short) appears displaced at the right edge of a syntactically, prosodically and semantically complete clause. This clause, in turn, contains a weak pronominal element, generally but not exclusively a clitic (K), which corefers with D. RD has received a fair amount of attention in the literature in Romance linguistics. Although the existing approaches are analytically somewhat diverse, they all share the assumption that RD is a monoclausal phenomenon. These are reviewed in Chapter 2 of the thesis, where I point out their merits and signal their empirical and conceptual shortcomings. This thesis constitutes a radical departure from previous analyses, and challenges the status of RD as a monoclausal phenomenon. Instead, I propose that RD constitutes an underlyingly biclausal phenomenon, where D is contained in a clause which is elided under identity with respect to the clause which hosts K. In chapter 3 I provide the evidence for this novel approach, and explores its consequences. The most serious issue with all monoclausal approaches is that they fail to account for the relation between K and D: these analyses must posit some sort of resumption, doubling, or ad hoc adjunction structure to account for the fact that these two elements are in the same clause. I thoroughly reject all of these proposals, and argue instead that the only link between D and K is purely endophoric. The analysis defended in this thesis thus treats D as a paratactic phrase with elided clausal structure. I propose that the parenthetical connection is mediated by means of a particular type of asyndetic, semantically asymmetric coordination structure. Chapter 4 deals with island effects in particular and locality issues in general. RD has always claimed to be sensitive to islands. In the literature on ellipsis, it is frequent to explain island sensitivity by positing movement of the remnant to a left peripheral position outside the domain of ellipsis. Chapter 4 makes two independent claims: (i) locality effects are explained independently of movement, and (ii) there does not exist evidence for movement of D inside the elided clause. With respect to (i), I claim that locality is a corollary of an economy condition that limits the height at which coordination can hold in elliptical contexts. As for (ii), the lack of evidence for movement of D provides an empirical argument against the widely accepted view that all remnants undergo movement outside of the ellipsis site. The analysis developed throughout this thesis brings together a natural set of phenomena that I refer to as right peripheral fragments, which include split questions and afterthoughts. These phenomena, and their relation to RD, are extensively discussed in chapter 5. I claim that under a monoclausal treatment of RD, the striking similarities between all of these phenomena cannot be captured in any simple way, and must instead be relegated into mere coincidence or anecdote. After a conclusion, an brief appendix follows where I suggest a natural extension of the analysis pursued in this dissertation to the phenomenon of clitic left dislocation.
Date of Award19 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLluisa Hernanz Carbo (Director)

Cite this