1 Introduction

1.1 The debate surrounding (Ibero-)Romance subject-verb inversion

Wide-focus subject-verb inversion is a subset of so-called “free” inversion, a descriptive cover term for a group of constructions in Romance where the subject surfaces postverbally (Hulk & Pollock 2001):

    1. (1)
    1. Asturian
    1. Morrió
    2. died.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. güelu.
    2. grandfather
    1. ‘(My) grandfather died.’
    1. (2)
    1. Portuguese
    1. Apareceu
    2. appear.PST.3SG
    1. um
    2. a
    1. cão.
    2. dog
    1. ‘A dog appeared.’
    1. (3)
    1. Spanish
    1. Llamó
    2. call.PST.3SG
    1. Lucía.
    2. Lucía
    1. ‘Lucía called.’

In this subset of inversion constructions, all sentential information is new and thus the whole sentence receives focus (hence the label “wide-focus”), rendering such structures felicitous in “out-of-the-blue” contexts or to the question: “what happened?”.

Although free inversion is one of a cluster of surface properties found in Romance that has been linked to the null-subject parameter (Chomsky 1981; Rizzi 1982), non-null subject languages may also display this type of inversion construction. Following an idea in Benincà (1988), previous work which assumes Romance wide-focus inversion to be a form of locative inversion (Pinto 1997; Tortora 1997; 2001; Sheehan 2006, 2010, 2015) has suggested that while such instances of inversion correlate with the null-subject parameter, they are not dependent on it. Accounts of wide-focus inversion nonetheless continue to appeal to the null-subject parameter since competing analyses of the latter can be understood to determine the underlying word order of Romance in the following way.

Current null-subject accounts predict different basic word-order configurations for Romance depending on their interpretation of the Extended Projection Principle (EPP) of Chomsky (1982), which stipulates that a preverbal subject is required in SpecTP. Since (Ibero-)Romance basic word order is generally taken to be SVO,1 inversion constructions raise the question of how the EPP can be satisfied in such instances, if indeed the EPP applies and must be satisfied. One argument contests the universality of the EPP (Borer 1986; Barbosa 1995; 2009; Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 1998), proposing that rich agreement inflection on the verb can function like a pronoun and is thus capable of satisfying the EPP requirement on the inflectional head of the sentential core, T. On this analysis, there is no motivation for the subject to raise to SpecTP, since the EPP is satisfied by V-to-T movement. Romance underlying word order is thus predicted to be VSO: apparent cases of inversion (i.e. postverbal subjects) are interpreted as constructions where the subject remains in situ; preverbal subjects are always instances of left-dislocation or focalisation. The opposing analysis (Rizzi 1986; Cardinaletti 2004; Holmberg 2005; Roberts 2010) assumes that the canonical subject position in T is filled by a phonologically-unrealised empty pronoun pro, and predicts that (at least some) preverbal subjects occur in this position, substantiating the intuition and consensus that SVO is the unmarked word order in Romance. The implications of null-subject analyses are vital to the present investigation, since if the basic word order of (Ibero-)Romance is SVO, an explanation of how the EPP is satisfied in subject-verb inversion is necessary. If, conversely, the basic word order is VSO, we can assume V-to-T movement satisfies the EPP requirement. However, should this latter analysis prove correct, we will need to explain why a VS order is not always felicitous in wide-focus contexts.

In line with the previous work cited above, this paper assumes that one major kind of wide-focus inversion involves a null locative element. We argue that Ibero-Romance displays fine-grained, systematic inversion phenomena that vary according to variety and to verb class, and that, specifically, offer evidence invalidating Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou (1998). We thus aim to make the following contributions: i) to provide novel empirical data with which to analyse competing null-subject analyses, and ii) to refine current theoretical understanding of wide-focus inversion involving null locative arguments, which, we propose, are null layered PPs with syntactically-encoded deictic reference.

1.2 Wide-focus inversion as locative inversion

Following Pinto (1997), Tortora (1997; 2001) and Sheehan (2006; 2010), we assume that a phonologically-null locative obtaining in initial position is capable of satisfying the EPP, analogous to locative inversion constructions elsewhere (cf. Eng. “Into the room walked John”). Drawing on Benincà’s (1988) idea that verbs disallowing inversion appear to lack a locative argument, Pinto (1997) proposes that Italian intransitive verbs are of two kinds: inversion verbs which select an extra locative/temporal argument – in her terms, a covert clitic LOC (a label which also subsumes the temporal nature of the argument) –, and non-inversion verbs, which do not. Inversion verbs generate differences in interpretation depending on whether the subject surfaces in a preverbal (4) or postverbal (5) position:

    1. (4)
    1. Italian (Pinto 1997: 12)
    1. Dante
    2. Dante
    1. è
    2. be. PRS.3SG
    1. entrato.
    2. enter.PST.PTCP
    1. ‘Dante entered (into some place).’
    1. (5)
    1. Italian (Pinto 1997: 12)
    1. È
    2. be.PRS.3SG
    1. entrato
    2. enter.PST.PTCP
    1. Dante.
    2. Dante
    1. ‘Dante entered (here/into this place).’

When the subject occurs postverbally with a wide-focus reading, the interpretation is deictic, implying locative or temporal proximity to the speaker. Existing work does not specify how the deictic interpretation is assigned, though Pinto (1997: 10) assumes it occurs through an unspecified pragmatic procedure. Sheehan (2006: 168) suggests that null locatives are prepositional phrases, though she does not indicate whether the responsibility for assigning a deictic interpretation lies with this element or not. She leaves the details of her hypothesis’ implementation to future research.

In what follows, we test the above hypotheses against a set of six closely-related varieties from the Ibero-Romance family. In particular, we question the validity of assuming a pragmatic procedure for the assignation of a deictic interpretation; instead, we take up Sheehan (2006)’s suggestion that the null locative may be prepositional in nature, and use recent work on the fine structure of prepositional phrases encoding spatial information (Cinque & Rizzi 2010) to account for the syntactic assignation of the locative’s deictic interpretation. We distinguish between cases of overt locative inversion and cases of subject-verb inversion involving a covert locative by referring to the latter as ‘locative’ subject-verb inversion, with single quotation marks.

The paper is organised as follows: after setting out some preliminaries regarding methodology and empirical sources (Section 2), Section 3 presents the results of the data collection, summarising the word-order facts of the empirical evidence, and surveying the semantics of the verbal classes investigated. In Section 4, we put forward the analysis advocated here in terms of a covert locative element, which can satisfy the EPP in cases of ‘locative’ subject-verb inversion and which assigns the deictic interpretation of such sentences. Specifically, we examine the internal architecture of the proposed locative PPs, which may project more or less internal structure according to the spatio-deictic features these encode. We suggest that the word-order alternations observed with ‘inversion’ verbs are in fact dependent on the availability and subsequent selection by the lexical verb of a null locative prepositional argument, which is generated within the VP before moving to a higher, preverbal clausal position. Finally, we detail cross-varietal availability of the null locative PPs and how these surface in the TP/CP border and left periphery.

2 Materials and methods

Our investigation surveys wide-focus inversion across six Ibero-Romance varieties: Asturian (Ast), Brazilian Portuguese (BP), European Portuguese (EP), European Spanish (ES), Mexican Spanish (MS) and River-Plate Spanish (RS) (collectively referred to as Latin-American Spanish). All are consistent null-subject languages (NSLs) apart from Brazilian Portuguese, which we describe as a partial NSL (Holmberg, Sheehan & Nayudu 2009); viz., it shows a more limited distribution of null-subjects than consistent NSLs but displays many pro-drop characteristics nevertheless.2 The varieties differ to certain degrees according to the prominence of their grammatical relations: European Portuguese is regarded as a subject-prominent language whereas Brazilian Portuguese is topic-prominent (and known to be more restrictive in licensing inversion constructions generally). Spanish shows greater word-order flexibility than either Portuguese variety and can be considered to be discourse-prominent. Informal observation suggests that European Spanish allows more inverted word-order configurations than its Latin-American counterparts, an observation borne out in our investigation’s findings. The data here suggest that Asturian patterns similarly to European Spanish in this respect, though further work is required to confirm such a claim.

Across the varieties, a total of 170 informants gave acceptability judgments on inversion constructions in their native language. Of these, the data analysed here represent the responses of 18 native Asturian speakers, 28 European Spanish speakers, 7 Mexican Spanish speakers, 15 River-Plate Spanish speakers,3 20 Brazilian Portuguese speakers, and 15 European Portuguese speakers.4 These informants were provided with a contextualised wide-focus structure in two versions, one with and one without an inverted order (as illustrated in (7) below). They were then asked to select which word order was most appropriate for the given context (out of the choices ‘most appropriate for the context’, ‘appropriate for the context’, and ‘inappropriate for the context’), and, if both were acceptable, whether there was a difference in interpretation. We also worked closely with a smaller number of informants to gain a deeper understanding of the results obtained.

Wide-focus responses were elicited so that the “default” word order was obtained.5 Usually, the method for eliciting such responses is to use a “what happened?”, or equivalent, question, where nothing is presupposed. However, in Spanish, the complementizer que (‘that’) often precedes a reply to such questions, as in (6):

    1. (6)
    1. Spanish
    1. ¿Qué pasó?
    2. Que vino la abuela.
    1. ‘What happened? (Que) grandma came.’

Use of que makes inversion sentences more acceptable (Sheehan 2006; Leonetti 2014). To avoid this effect, responses were elicited from contexts designed to extract a wide-focus sentence from the informant. The following example is the test used to elicit an out-of-the-blue response for a transitive verb:

    1. (7)
    1. Spanish
    2. Alejando está poniendo la mesa antes de comer. De repente, grita:
    3. ¡Ha tirado Héctor el pan! / ¡Héctor ha tirado el pan!
    4. Le contesta Rosa:
    5. ¿Seguro? Mira la bolsa de la compra a ver si está.
    1.  
    1. ‘Alejandro is laying the table before lunch. Suddenly, he calls out:
    2. Héctor has thrown the bread away!
    3. Rosa answers:
    4. Are you sure? Have a look at the shopping bag and check if it’s there.’

This method proved a more reliable way of eliciting the desired judgment from informants than using the normal “what happened?” question. Moreover, we controlled for variation in interpretation by using the same contexts across varieties so that informants were asked to judge sentences arising from identical contexts. In the section that follows, we present the results of this data collection, summarising the micro-variation observed in subject-verb inversion across the Ibero-Romance varieties under investigation.

3 Results

3.1 Sentences without a word-order alternation

In all Ibero-Romance varieties surveyed, the subject must surface in initial position with transitive verbs in wide-focus contexts:6

    1. (8)
    1. a.
    1. Asturian
    1. Alexandro
    2. Alexandro
    1. comió
    2. eat.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. pan.
    2. bread
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. #Comió
    2. eat.PST.3SG
    1. Alexandro
    2. Alexandro
    1. el
    2. the
    1. pan.
    2. bread
    1.  
    1. c.
    1. European Spanish
    1. Alejandro
    2. Alejandro
    1. ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. comido
    2. eat.PST.PTCP
    1. el
    2. the
    1. pan.
    2. bread
    1.  
    1. d.
    1. #Ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. comido
    2. eat.PST.PTCP
    1. Alejandro
    2. Alejandro
    1. el
    2. the
    1. pan.
    2. bread
    1.  
    1. e.
    1. Latin-American Spanish
    1. Alejandro
    2. Alejandro
    1. comió
    2. eat.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. pan.7
    2. bread
    1.  
    1. f.
    1. #Comió
    2. eat.PST.3SG
    1. Alejandro
    2. Alejandro
    1. el
    2. the
    1. pan.
    2. bread
    1.  
    1. g.
    1. Portuguese (Brazilian, European)
    1. O
    2. the
    1. Alexandro
    2. Alexandro
    1. comeu
    2. eat.PST.3SG
    1. o
    2. the
    1. pão.
    2. bread
    1.  
    1. h.
    1. #Comeu
    2. eat.PST.3SG
    1. o
    2. the
    1. Alexandro
    2. Alexandro
    1. o
    2. the
    1. pão.
    2. bread
    1. ‘Alexander has eaten/ate the bread.’

This observation challenges claims that VSO is also a possible unmarked word order for this configuration in Spanish (cf. fn 1).

In the case of intransitive verbs, all varieties display inversion with the unaccusative verb asoceder/ocurrir/acontecer (‘to happen’):8

    1. (9)
    1. a.
    1. Asturian
    1. Asocedió
    2. happen.PST.3SG
    1. un
    2. an
    1. accidente.
    2. accident
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. European Spanish
    1. Ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. ocurrido
    2. occur.PST.3SG
    1. un
    2. an
    1. accidente.
    2. accident
    1.  
    1. c.
    1. Latin-American Spanish
    1. Ocurrió
    2. happen.PST.3SG
    1. un
    2. an
    1. accidente.
    2. accident
    1.  
    1. d.
    1. Portuguese (Brazilian, European)
    1. Aconteceu
    2. happen.PST.3SG
    1. um
    2. an
    1. acidente.
    2. accident
    1. ‘An accident (has) happened.’

Inversion also obtains across all varieties with unaccusative apaecer/aparecer (‘to appear’):9

    1. (10)
    1. Asturian
    1. Apaeció
    2. appear.PST.3SG
    1. Fido.
    2. Fido
    1. (11)
    1. European Spanish
    1. Ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. aparecido
    2. appear.PST.PTCP
    1. Fido.
    2. Fido
    1. ‘Fido (has) appeared.’

Conversely, the subject surfaces preverbally with the unergatives brincar/saltar/pular (‘to jump’) and baillar/bailar/dançar (‘to dance’) in wide-focus contexts across all varieties:

    1. (12)
    1. Brazilian Portuguese
    1. O
    2. the
    1. Luis
    2. Luis
    1. pulou.
    2. jump.PST.3SG
    1. ‘Luis jumped.’
    1. (13)
    1. Asturian
    1. Xuan
    2. Xuan
    1. bailló.
    2. dance.PST.3SG
    1. ‘Xuan danced.’

The inverted order is, without exception, unavailable in a wide-focus environment in such cases:

    1. (14)
    1. European Portuguese
    1. #Saltou
    2. jump.PST.3SG
    1. o
    2. the
    1. Luis.
    2. Luis
    1. (EP)
    2.  
    1. ‘Luis jumped.’
    1. (15)
    1. Spanish (European, Latin-American)
    1. #Bailó
    2. dance.PST.3SG
    1. Juan.
    2. Juan.
    1. ‘Juan danced.’

While here the licensing of inversion appears to correspond to the unaccusative/unergative divide, Section 3.2 presents data which invalidate this assumption. Nonetheless, together with the unacceptability of wide-focus inversion with transitive verbs, the fact that inversion is generally disallowed with unergatives in wide-focus constructions indicates that Ibero-Romance basic word order is SVO. Preverbal subjects appear to be in the canonical argumental subject position, SpecTP, rather than a left-dislocated position, which suffices to disprove Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou (1998).10 Moreover, it is unclear how their approach would explain the infelicitous instances of VS orders, given that the verb’s (pro-)nominal properties are meant to satisfy the EPP. In the absence of the verb being able to fulfil the EPP requirement, we assume that some other element must be present in a preverbal argumental subject position in order to derive a felicitous VS configuration in these Ibero-Romance varieties (the specific mechanics of which will be presented in §4). In addition, since the inversion data observed here includes Brazilian Portuguese, this type of ‘free’ inversion cannot only be a property of consistent NSLs. Accordingly, it cannot be a direct consequence of the null-subject parameter.

3.2 Ibero-Romance word-order alternations

A number of intransitive verbs in Ibero-Romance permit both SV and VS orders in wide-focus contexts, corroborating Pinto (1997)’s bipartite division of intransitives into inversion and non-inversion verbs. However, the data presented here reveal that inversion occurs to differing yet systematic degrees across varieties. To present the complex variation in a comprehensible format, the inversion verbs allowing an SV/VS alternation are divided into four classes whose properties are detailed below. These groupings highlight a correspondence between the semantic features of inversion verbs and the systematic distribution of word-order configurations across Ibero-Romance. We will observe in §3.3 that not only do the verbal classes proposed below share key semantic features, but they also provide evidence for an Ibero-Romance “scale” of inversion with respect to the possibility and frequency of wide-focus VS structures (that is, verbs highest on this scale occur most often in an inversion configuration, whereas verbs lowest on the scale figure least often in a VS order). In turn, wide-focus VS structures systematically entail a deictic reading such that the event they describe is interpreted as anchored to the speaker’s loco-temporal co-ordinates (an interpretation marked [+ deixis] in the following sections), contrasting with SV structures whose interpretation is underspecified with respect to deixis (marked [ø deixis]), as illustrated for the Italian examples in (4–5).

The regularity of this patterning of ‘deictic’ inversion structures relative to the verb’s semantic properties suggests that said features are syntactically represented in these varieties; if this is the case, then the deictic interpretation of the inversion constructions appears to be syntactically encoded rather than derived inferentially from the utterance context, contra Pinto (1997), and in line with independent proposals (e.g. D’Alessandro 2004; Giorgi 2010; Hill 2013) which argue for the formal encoding of pragmatic information in Romance.11

3.2.1 Semantic features of inversion verbs allowing an SV/VS alternation

The relevant features pertaining to Ibero-Romance wide-focus ‘locative’ inversion are path, location and deixis, which we will propose in §4 to be formally encoded in Ibero-Romance.

The notion of PATH refers (here) to a telic trajectory which involves either a SOURCE (the start-point of the trajectory e.g. ‘the bird fell from the sky’) or a GOAL (the end-point of the trajectory e.g. ‘the bird fell to the ground’). The term LOCATION refers to a static spatial co-ordinate (e.g. ‘the bird lay on the ground’). The concept of deixis, which anchors a sentence relative to a contextual index (the ORIGO, or deictic centre, which is typically, but not necessarily, ego-centric), is variable in the strength of its meaning contribution in the relevant verbs. Thus, a strongly deictic verb such as venir/vir ‘to come’ obligatorily encodes a location proximal to the speaker (cf. fn 13), whereas other verbs occur in structures entailing a more general notion of deixis, linking the sentence only loosely to the utterance context (e.g. irse ‘to leave’, cf. §3.2.4). In §4, the ‘variability’ in the deictic strength of the structures under investigation is shown to be an effect of the compositionality of syntactically-encoded deictic meaning, which, following Sigurðsson (2004; 2010), is understood here to be divisible into co-ordinates relative to an agentive interlocutor (typically the speaker), a patient interlocutor (typically the addressee) and the speech time, location and wider discourse context.

In the following sections, we base our classifications according to the presence of these key units of meaning – i.e. whether a verb is [± goal, source, location, deixis] – in the semantics of inversion verbs (for further discussion, cf. Corr 2012: 23–27). Anticipating the exposition of the theoretical analysis in §4, it is these pragmatico-semantic features which are encoded in the clausal architecture, triggering the movement of different sizes of complex null locative prepositional arguments that are proposed to be c-selected by inversion verbs.

3.2.2 Class A: +goal, +location, +deixis

Class A verbs (e.g. unaccusative venir/vir, ‘to come’) encode the key features of goal, location and deixis. With these verbs, both the inverted and non-inverted order are permitted across Ibero-Romance:

    1. (16)
    1. a.
    1. Portuguese (European, Brazilian) [ø deixis]
    1. A
    2. the
    1. avó
    2. grandmother
    1. chegou.
    2. arrive.PST.3SG
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. [+ deixis]
    1. Chegou
    2. arrive.PST.3SG
    1. a
    2. the
    1. avó.
    2. grandmother
    1. ‘Grandmother arrived.’

However, the subject tends to surface post-verbally with such verbs in Asturian (17) and Spanish, whereas it tends to occur preverbally in Portuguese (18):12

    1. (17)
    1. Asturian [+ deixis]
    1. Llegó
    2. arrive.PST.3SG
    1. la
    2. the
    1. güela.
    2. grandmother
    1. ‘Grandmother arrived.’
    1. (18)
    1. Portuguese (European, Brazilian) [ø deixis]
    1. O
    2. the
    1. Sérgio
    2. Sérgio
    1. veio.
    2. come.PST.3SG
    1. ‘Sergio came.’

Verbs in this class involve inherently-directed motion (Levin 1993; Fábregas 2007), which may be strongly deictic in the Ibero-Romance varieties considered here.13 Comparison with Catalan, which we leave to future research, would be worthwhile in this respect, since its motion verbs, demonstratives, and locatives have different deictic paradigms from those of Spanish (Vann 1997: 307–8).

The relevant semantic features of Class A are motion to a fixed point (i.e. telic direction), location (the static location where the event is situated or to which, in this case, movement occurs) and deixis. However, given that not all inversion verbs are motion verbs, we prefer to capture the idea of directionality using the term PATH as discussed in §3.2.1 above, for which we can replace the notion of ‘to a fixed point’ with GOAL (cf. Zwarts 2005 for a discussion of paths, and relevant terminology). (19) illustrates these features:

    1. (19)
    1. Portuguese (European, Brazilian)
    1. Chegou [+goal, +location, +deixis, + intransitive]
    2. arrive.PST.3SG
    1. a
    2. the
    1. avó.
    2. grandmother
    1. ‘Grandmother arrived.’

3.2.3 Class B: +goal, +location

The key features of Class B verbs are [+goal, +location]. Like Class A verbs, both orders are permitted across Ibero-Romance with Class B verbs (e.g. unaccusative entrar, ‘to enter [go in]’):

    1. (20)
    1. a.
    1. European Spanish [+ deixis]
    1. Ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. entrado
    2. enter.PST.PTCP
    1. el
    2. the
    1. gato.
    2. cat
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. [ø deixis]
    1. El
    2. the
    1. gato
    2. cat
    1. ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. entrado.
    2. enter.PST.PTCP
    1. ‘The cat has come in.’

However, whereas in Asturian and European Spanish inversion is preferred with Class B verbs in wide-focus contexts (21), in Portuguese and Mexican Spanish the subject tends to surface in a non-inverted order with these verbs (22):

    1. (21)
    1. Asturian [+ deixis]
    1. Entró
    2. enter.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. gatu.
    2. cat
    1. ‘The cat came in.’
    1. (22)
    1. Portuguese (Brazilian, European) [ø deixis]
    1. O
    2. the
    1. gato
    2. cat
    1. entrou.
    2. enter.PST.3SG
    1. ‘The cat came in.’

While both orders are acceptable in River-Plate Spanish within this category, the VS order is preferred with the unergative llamar, ‘to call’ (23); conversely, the unaccusatives entrar, ‘to enter’ (24) and morir, ‘to die’ (25) are both favoured with the non-inverted order:

    1. (23)
    1. a.
    1. River-Plate Spanish [+ deixis]
    1. Llamó
    2. call.PST.3SG
    1. Lucía.
    2. Lucía
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. [ø deixis]
    1. Lucía
    2. Lucía
    1. llamó.
    2. call.PST.3SG
    1. ‘Lucía rang.’
    1. (24)
    1. a.
    1. [ø deixis]
    1. El
    2. the
    1. gato
    2. cat
    1. entró.
    2. enter.PST.3SG
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. [+ deixis]
    1. Entró
    2. enter.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. gato.
    2. cat
    1. ‘The cat came in.’
    1. (25)
    1. a.
    1. [ø deixis]
    1. El
    2. the
    1. abuelo
    2. grandfather
    1. murió.
    2. die.PST.3SG
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. [+ deixis]
    1. Murió
    2. die.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. abuelo.
    2. grandfather
    1. ‘Grandfather died.’

(23) demonstrates that the patterning of inversion verbs does not strictly follow the unergative/unaccusative distinction in Ibero-Romance.

The variation in the degree to which Class B verbs permit wide-focus inversion is a function of the individual semantics of each verb. Llamar/ligar (‘to call’) denotes the transfer of information from one participant to another. The verb entails a notion of direction towards a participant within the speech act, a relation between speech participants that does not obtain in ‘to die’ or ‘to enter’. Morir/morrer (‘to die’) plausibly involves movement away from one state (sc. being alive) to another (being dead) (Theresa Biberauer, p.c.): the change of state in morir/morrer is thus analogous to the change of location involved in entrar (‘to enter’). This difference may be reflected in the temporal (rather than locative) interpretation of morir/morrer constructions (cf. Pinto’s 1997: 23) example: È morto Fellini, ‘Fellini has (just) died’).

3.2.4 Class C: (-goal), +source, +location

The key semantic features of Class C verbs (e.g. unaccusative salir/sair ‘to leave’) are [+source, +location]. With this group, only the non-inverted order is permitted with Portuguese (26) and Latin-American Spanish (thus patterning with Italian e.g. partire ‘to leave’, for which only an SV order is felicitous in wide-focus contexts, cf. Bentley 2006):

    1. (26)
    1. a.
    1. Portuguese (Brazilian, European) [ø deixis]
    1. O
    2. the
    1. meu
    2. my
    1. pai
    2. father
    1. saiu.
    2. leave.PST.3SG
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. #Saiu
    2. leave.PST.3SG
    1. o
    2. the
    1. meu
    2. my
    1. pai.
    2. father
    1. ‘My father left.’

Both orders are still permitted in Asturian and European Spanish (27):

    1. (27)
    1. a.
    1. European Spanish [ø deixis]
    1. Mi
    2. my
    1. padre
    2. father
    1. ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. salido.
    2. leave.PST.PTCP
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. [+ deixis]
    1. Ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. salido
    2. leave.PST.PTCP
    1. mi
    2. my
    1. padre.
    2. father
    1. ‘My father (has) left.’

However, in European Spanish, a preverbal subject is strongly preferred with salir (28), whereas it is only weakly preferred in Asturian (29):

    1. (28)
    1. European Spanish [ø deixis]
    1. Mi
    2. my
    1. padre
    2. father
    1. ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. salido.
    2. leave.PST.PTCP
    1. ‘My father (has) left.’
    1. (29)
    1. Asturian [ø deixis]
    1. Mio
    2. my
    1. father
    1. salió.
    2. leave.PST.3SG
    1. ‘My father left.’

The absence of a goal feature in the semantics of Class C verbs is potentially crucial, since its presence or absence appears to correlate with tendency towards or away from the inverted order. While Class C verbs imply movement away from an unspecified location, there is a contrast between those with no deictic reference (e.g. salir/sair) and those which are also (subtly) participant-oriented (e.g. Spanish irse). In the latter example, the presence of the reflexive clitic se gives a deictic/indexical dimension to the verb, making irse plausibly participant-oriented in a way that salir/sair is not. Thus, in Spanish, irse (30) is more likely to figure in an inverted construction than salir (31):

    1. (30)
    1. a.
    1. Spanish [+ deixis]
    1. Se ha
    2. herself=AUX.3SG
    1. ido
    2. go.PST.PTCP
    1. Marta.
    2. Marta
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. [ø deixis]
    1. Marta
    2. Marta
    1. se ha
    2. herself=AUX.3SG
    1. ido.
    2. go.PST.PTCP
    1. ‘Marta (has) left.’
    1. (31)
    1. a.
    1. Spanish [ø deixis]
    1. Mi
    2. my
    1. padre
    2. father
    1. ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. salido.
    2. leave.PST.PTCP
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. [+ deixis]
    1. Ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. salido
    2. leave.PST.PTCP
    1. mi
    2. my
    1. padre.
    2. father
    1. ‘My father (has) left.’

In fact, the use of the reflexive in a recipient/benefactive role often gives a participant-oriented interpretation to a sentence in Spanish. Compare the difference in meaning between the following sentences with and without the clitic se:

    1. (32)
    1. Spanish
    1. Até
    2. tie.PST.1SG
    1. los
    2. the
    1. cordones.
    2. shoelaces
    1. ‘I tied (someone’s) shoelaces.’
    1. (33)
    1. Spanish
    1. Me até
    2. myself=tie.PST.1SG
    1. los
    2. the
    1. cordones.
    2. shoelaces
    1. ‘I tied my shoelaces.’

MacDonald (2004: 5–6) understands such instances of se to be introduced as the complement of a null locative preposition, where the PP expresses that the direct object (los cordones ‘the shoelaces’, in this case) is in the same location as the denotation of the reflexive, i.e. the subject. The (loco-temporal) co-ordinates of the event are thus restricted to those of the subject, such that the interpretation of (33) is that the event of shoelace-tying occurs where the shoelaces (los cordones) are, and these shoelaces are located where the subject is (via the co-indexation of the clitic with the subject), and thus the shoelace-tying necessarily takes place at the speaker’s location. If indeed a locative analysis is appropriate for se constructions (see also de Cuypers 2006; Armstrong 2013) and can be extended to lexicalised irse, the preference for inversion with irse over salir follows as a consequence of the ‘extra’ locative properties of the former (and lack thereof in the latter), a finding which lends plausibility to our hypothesis that a null locative is responsible for wide-focus inversion constructions.

3.2.5 Class D: +location (-goal, -deixis)

Of the varieties surveyed, only Asturian permits inversion with Class D verbs, such as the unergatives llorar/chorar (‘to cry’), gritar (‘to shout’) and dimitir/demitir/renunciar (‘to resign’):

    1. (34)
    1. a.
    1. Portuguese (Brazilian, European) [ø deixis]
    1. O
    2. the
    1. menino
    2. child
    1. chorou.
    2. cry.PST.3SG
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. #Chorou
    2. cry.PST.3SG
    1. o
    2. the
    1. menino.
    2. child
    1. ‘The child cried.’
    1. (35)
    1. a.
    1. Asturian [ø deixis]
    1. El
    2. the
    1. neñu
    2. child
    1. lloró. (Ast.)
    2. cry.PST.3SG
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. [+ deixis]
    1. Lloró
    2. cry.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. neñu.
    2. child
    1. ‘The child cried.’

However, the SV order is preferred in Asturian with these verbs:

    1. (36)
    1. Asturian [ø deixis]
    1. Putin
    2. Putin
    1. dimitió.
    2. resign.PST.3SG
    1. ‘Putin resigned.’

Why Asturian should permit inversion with these unergatives is not immediately clear, but what may differentiate non-inversion unergatives (e.g. bailar ‘to dance’, brincar ‘to play’) from inversion unergatives like llorar, gritar and dimitir is that the former class encodes non-directional movement but not static location whereas the latter can plausibly involve static location since no movement14 is encoded in these verbs. Alternatively, an anonymous reviewer suggests that Asturian might categorise such verbs as containing source: Old Spanish llorar ‘to cry’, for example, could select an overt source, such as llorar de los ojos (‘to cry from the eyes’). Whilst this option is unavailable in Modern Spanish, it is possible that Asturian might still preserve such ‘substance emission’ verbs as source verbs. Approached in this light, dimitir ‘to resign’ could be viewed as a figurative source verb (cf. dimitió del gabinete palestino ‘he resigned from [out of] the Palestinian cabinet’). However, in this case, it would be necessary to explain why Spanish dimitir/renunciar encodes source yet does not allow wide-focus inversion (cf. #dimitió/renunció Putin ‘Putin resigned’).

The patterning of verbs which trigger subject-verb inversion in wide-focus contexts across Ibero-Romance are summarised in Table 1 (where both orders are possible, the ‘preferred’ order precedes):15

Table 1

Verbs triggering subject-verb inversion in Ibero-Romance varieties.

Ast ES RS MS EP BP

Happen VS VS VS VS VS VS/SV
Appear VS VS/SV VS VS VS VS/SV(?)
Arrive VS/SV VS/SV VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS SV/VS
Come VS/SV VS/SV VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS SV/VS
Call VS/SV VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS SV/VS SV/VS
Enter VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS SV/VS SV/VS SV/VS
Die VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS SV/VS SV/VS SV/VS
Leave (irse) / SV/VS SV SV / /
Leave (salir) SV/VS SV/VS SV SV SV SV
Cry SV/VS SV SV SV SV SV
Shout SV/VS SV SV SV SV SV
Resign SV/VS SV SV SV SV SV
Jump SV SV SV SV SV SV
Dance SV SV SV SV SV SV

3.3 Word-order “preferences” across Ibero-Romance

We have observed that both inverted and non-inverted configurations are possible across Ibero-Romance with Classes A and B. However, while Asturian and European Spanish also allow both orders for Class C, Latin-American Spanish and Portuguese do not, permitting only the non-inverted order with this class of verbs. Asturian alone licenses inversion with Class D verbs. Thus we can conclude that, while there is relative consistency in Ibero-Romance with respect to the verbs allowing an SV/VS alternation, intra-familial variation persists. Yet simple presence or absence of a null locative cannot account for the variation that obtains: that inversion occurs at all in these varieties suggests that the null locative proposed in previous analyses is available. However, an additional explanation is necessary to account for why inversion occurs with some verbs in some varieties, but not with other verbs in other varieties.

Further, we observe that, when both the inverted and non-inverted options are available to a speaker, the speaker will display systematically-varying degrees of “preference” for one word-order configuration over another, depending on the verb used, the variety spoken, and the pragmatic interpretation the speaker assigns to the particular speech act. Thus, in (16), repeated here as (37), Portuguese speakers judge both SV and VS configurations as grammatical but they consistently prefer the inverted to the non-inverted order, despite (ostensibly) identical contexts:16

    1. (37)
    1. a.
    1. Portuguese (Brazilian, European) [ø deixis]
    1. A
    2. the
    1. avó
    2. grandmother
    1. chegou.
    2. arrive.PST.3SG
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. [+ deixis]
    1. Chegou
    2. arrive.PST.3SG
    1. a
    2. the
    1. avó.
    2. grandmother
    1. ‘Grandmother arrived.’

By “preference” (an expedient label revised and qualified below), it is meant that, given an identical context for a particular verb, speakers will systematically show a tendency towards one configuration over the other, though both are felicitous, a phenomenon that recurs across Ibero-Romance wide-focus inversion constructions.

To illustrate, we observe that Ibero-Romance informants presented with Class A llegar/chegar (‘to arrive’) judge both the VS and the SV order as felicitous for exactly the same context. However, Asturian speakers show a very strong preference17 for the VS order (that is, speakers are very highly likely to favour the VS configuration) over the SV order; European Spanish speakers show a strong preference for (i.e. are highly likely to favour) the VS order over the SV order; Latin-American Spanish speakers show a weak preference for (i.e. are still more likely than not to favour) the VS order over the SV order; European Portuguese speakers show a weak preference for the SV order over the VS order; and Brazilian Portuguese speakers show a preference for the SV order, but the VS order remains a possibility, as captured in Table 2:18

Table 2

Distribution of Ibero-Romance “preferences” for llegar/chegar (Class A).

Ast ES RS MS EP BP

VS(SV) VS/SV VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS SV(VS)
    1.  
    1. The context in which the verb is elicited remains constant throughout, hence the systematic differences in preference cannot simply be attributed to speakers’ interpretation of the given context: presumably, there are some interpretative differences that vary according to speaker, but if this were the only explanation then these would occur on an individual basis, but not systematically according to variety as we find in the empirical data. However, since “preference” means very little in the current framework, we can reasonably assume that the patterns observed do not reflect “preferences”, but instead have some sort of grammatical explanation. Nonetheless, the term suffices for now, since it captures the empirical facts (§4.3.3 will explain its relevance).

The patterns of “preference” reveal complicated but subtle, systematic variation in Ibero-Romance. Whilst permitting both inverted and non-inverted orders, Class A verbs display a tendency towards inversion across varieties whereas Class C verbs show a tendency towards the non-inverted order. Other verbs pattern somewhere in between. The degree to which a given configuration is “preferred” varies according to both the verb and the variety. The differences and distribution are captured in Table 3, which illustrates a “scale” of inversion that is not only empirically-motivated but also has a semantic motivation in the features described in §3.2.1–3.2.5 (cf. fn 16 and 19 in interpreting the table):

Table 3

Distribution of Ibero-Romance word-order “preferences”.

Ast ES RS MS EP BP

Happen VS VS VS VS VS VS/SV
Appear VS VS((SV)) VS((SV)) VS(SV?) VS VS/SV(?)
Arrive VS(SV) VS/SV VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS SV(VS)
Come VS(SV) VS/SV VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS SV(VS)
Call VS(SV) VS/SV VS/SV SV(VS) SV/VS SV(VS)
Enter VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS SV(VS) SV/VS SV(VS)
Die VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS SV/VS SV/VS SV(VS)
Leave (irse) / SV/VS SV SV / /
Leave (salir) SV/VS SV(VS) SV SV SV SV
Cry SV(VS) SV SV SV SV SV
Shout SV(VS) SV SV SV SV SV
Resign SV/VS SV SV SV SV SV
Jump SV SV SV SV SV SV
Dance SV SV SV SV SV SV

The scale above reflects the degree to which Ibero-Romance varieties license wide-focus inversion. Portuguese appears to be most restrictive in this respect, especially Brazilian Portuguese (a difference we would expect, as noted in §2). Spanish is more liberal in licensing inversion, European Spanish being the least restrictive and Mexican Spanish the most. Asturian exhibits the fewest constraints in its licensing of inversion, though word-order distribution is systematic and an SV configuration remains the norm outside inversion constructions.

The variation’s systematic nature warrants syntactic explanation. That optionality obtains with the verbs surveyed here fulfils the prediction that i) there are inversion verbs, and ii) the different word-order configurations involve an interpretational difference (i.e. they are not “truly” optional; cf. Biberauer & Richards 2006). We assume, therefore, that the alternation is dependent on the availability and subsequent selection of a null locative.19 The degree to which each option is “preferred”, however, necessitates a finer-grained analysis than simple presence or absence of a covert locative as postulated in previous work.

4 Discussion and analysis

4.1 The locative argument as a null layered PP

On the basis of the observed correlation between Ibero-Romance inversion variation and the semantics of inversion verbs, we suggested in the preceding section that the spatial and deictic features identified are encoded in Ibero-Romance syntax. In this section, we draw on recent cross-linguistic work on the fine structure of prepositional phrases expressing spatial relations (Cinque 1999; Cinque & Rizzi 2010), which suggests that a single articulated configuration is reproduced universally, though different portions may be spelled out or omitted according to whatever constitutes the relevant information, a structure which is mirrored in the morphology of synthetic languages.20 Our proposal is that Ibero-Romance displays a type of wide-focus inversion which is sensitive to spatial and deictic features. These features attract different sizes of locative PPs (decomposable into the same universal structure) to the TP/CP border and left periphery, depending on their availability in a given language. The appearance of these locatives in the C-domain is understood to involve movement to multiple argumental positions (cf. §4.3 onwards) rather than left-dislocation and is thus assumed to be capable of satisfying the EPP.

4.1.1 The structure of null locative PPs

The basic structure of the null locative PP combines and replicates previous analyses of spatial PPs (Koopman 1993; 2000; Cinque 1999; den Dikken 2010; Pantcheva 2010; Svenonius 2010), which advocate the cartographic encoding of spatial relations within hierarchies of varying complexity. Relevant here is that these accounts propose unique projections for direction (or Path) and location (or Place), with the former layer dominating the latter, as in (38):

    1. (38)
    1. Spanish
    1. El
    2. the
    1. monstruo
    2. monster
    1. salió
    2. came.out
    1. [PathP
    2.  
    1. de
    2. from
    1. [PlaceP
    2.  
    1. debajo [PP
    2. under
    1. de [DP
    2. of
    1. la
    2. the
    1. cama]]]
    2. bed
    1. ‘The monster came out from underneath the bed.’ (my example)

Support for such an analysis is found in Terzi’s work on null spatial prepositions in Greek. In (39), the Greek directional/locative preposition se (appearing in contracted form before the definite determiner) is optionally realised:

    1. (39)
    1. Greek (adapted from Terzi 2010: 173)
    1. Pao
    2. go.IMP.2SG
    1. (sto)
    2. (se.the)
    1. spiti.
    2. home
    1. ‘I go home.’

When se is absent, a null directional PP is assumed to obtain with the following structure:

    1. (40)
    1. Greek (Terzi 2010: 173)
    1. Pao [PPDir [PDir 0 [PPLoc [PLocse/0 [DP spiti]]]]]

Terzi argues that Greek null spatial PPs are associated with an unpronounced DP PLACE, following Kayne (2004; 2005).21 Incorporating the silent PLACE into the structure of the null locative could account for the subject-like properties locative inversion constructions have been observed to display. We replace the Path projection with individual projections for Source and Goal following Pantcheva (2010)’s proposal that there is not a unique Path functional head. Instead, Pantcheva argues that source and goal paths form separate syntactic structures, postulating three different types of spatial PP (Pantcheva 2010: 1052):

    1. (41)
    1. a.
    1. Locations
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Goal paths
    1.  
    1. c.
    1. Source paths

Further, Svenonius (2010) identifies deixis as a functional layer above a projection dedicated to the expression of static location or place.22 Combining Pantcheva’s spatial PPs with Svenonius’ functional projection for deixis and Kayne’s silent noun PLACE provides four different sizes of null locative layered PP, which incorporate projections for source (SourceP), deixis (DeixisP), goal (GoalP) and location (LocationP).

4.1.2 SourceP

SourceP has projections for each of the proposed functional layers:

    1. (42)

Class C verbs (e.g. salir/sair ‘to leave’), involving a source feature, are predicted to c-select for SourceP. As inversion is only licensed with these verbs in Asturian and European Spanish, we assume that SourceP is available in the lexical entry of these varieties only. Conversely, inversion constructions are not licensed with Class C verbs in Portuguese and Latin-American Spanish, so SourceP is assumed to be unavailable in these varieties. Thus, in European Spanish, a Class C verb can appear in two possible configurations, as follows:

    1. (43)
    1. a.
    1. European Spanish
    1. Iván
    2. Iván
    1. ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. ido.
    2. go.PST.PTCP
    1. ‘Iván has gone [non-specific location/time].’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. SourceP
    2. SourceP
    1. ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. ido
    2. go.PST.PTCP
    1. Iván.
    2. Iván
    1. ‘Iván has [just] gone [from here].’

The full structure of the inversion construction is illustrated in (44):

    1. (44)
    1. [PPSource[PSource[PPDeixis[PDeixis[PPGoal[PGoal[PPLocation[PLocation[DPPLACE]]]]]]]]] [TP ha ido Iván].

When the null locative is present, it values the relevant features, anchoring the sentence to the speaker’s deictic centre, thus allocating the deictic interpretation. As observed in the existing literature on ‘locative’ wide-focus inversion, a temporal as well as locative interpretation is available for the null argument, which we explain in terms of formal features (viz. Sigurðsson’s 2004; 2010) Speech Time and Speech Location features) in §4.3.3.

In the varieties in which SourceP is unavailable, this alternation is not possible:

    1. (45)
    1. a.
    1. European Portuguese
    1. O
    2. the
    1. Ivan
    2. Ivan
    1. escapou-se.
    2. escape.PST.3SG=himself
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. *SourceP
    2. SourceP
    1. se escapou/escapou-se
    2. himself=escape.PST.3SG/escape.PST.3SG=himself
    1. o
    2. the
    1. Ivan.
    2. Ivan
    1. ‘Ivan escaped.’

The availability of SourceP in some varieties of Ibero-Romance suggests that the lack of null source PPs in English, Greek and Italian is due not to the impossibility of covertly realising a directional source PP (as proposed in Terzi 2010), but to its absence in these varieties.

4.1.3 DeixisP

DeixisP, with functional projections for deixis, goal and location, corresponds to Class A verbs such as venir/vir (‘to come’), whose semantic features in turn correspond to the PP’s functional projections:

    1. (46)

As all varieties permit wide-focus inversion with Class A, it is assumed that DeixisP is available across Ibero-Romance. Therefore, the following configurations are possible in Ibero-Romance:

    1. (47)
    1. a.
    1. Portuguese (Brazilian, European)
    1. A
    2. the
    1. avó
    2. grandmother
    1. chegou.
    2. arrive.PST.3SG
    1. ‘Grandmother arrived [non-specific time].’
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. DeixisP
    2. DeixisP
    1. chegou
    2. arrive.PST.3SG
    1. a
    2. the
    1. avó.
    2. grandmother
    1. ‘Grandmother [just recently] arrived [here].’

The internal structure for the inverted construction is:

    1. (48)
    1. [PPDeixis [PDeixis [PPGoal[PGoal [PPLocation [PLocation [DPPLACE]]]]]]] [TP chegou a avó]

4.1.4 GoalP

The third type of locative PP is GoalP, which encodes goal and location in its functional projections:

    1. (49)

Since all varieties permit inversion with Class B verbs, the prediction would seem to be that all have GoalP in their lexical entries. However, we modify this hypothesis in §4.3.1, for reasons which will become apparent. For now, the occurrence of GoalP in Ibero-Romance is illustrated as follows:

    1. (50)
    1. Asturian
    1. GoalP
    2. GoalP
    1. morrió
    2. died.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. güelu.
    2. grandfather
    1. ‘Grandfather [just recently] died.’

The internal structure for GoalP is:

    1. (51)
    1. [PPGoal[PGoal [PPLocation [PLocation [DPPLACE]]]]] [TP morrió el güelu] 23

4.1.5 LocationP

The fourth type of layered PP is LocationP, which encodes a functional layer for (static) location only:

    1. (52)

This null locative must be unavailable across Ibero-Romance, except in Asturian, where Class D verbs can c-select for LocationP:

    1. (53)
    1. a.
    1. Spanish (European, Latin-American)
    1. *LocationP
    2. LocationP
    1. lloró
    2. cry.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. niño.
    2. child
    1.  
    1. b.
    1. Portuguese (Brazilian, European)
    1. *LocationP
    2. LocationP
    1. chorou
    2. cry.PST.3SG
    1. o
    2. the
    1. menino.
    2. child
    1.  
    1. c.
    1. Asturian
    1. LocationP
    2. LocationP
    1. lloró
    2. cry.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. neñu.
    2. child
    1. ‘The child cried [location includes the speaker].’

The underlying structure of the construction, where it is available, is:

    1. (54)
    1. [PPLocation [PLocation [DPPLACE]]] [TP lloró el neñu]

This class of unergatives which c-select for LocationP fits with the type of verb described in Pinto (1997), such as Italian abitare ‘to live, dwell’, with which wide-focus inversion is licensed only when the locative PP is overt (since, presumably, LocationP is unavailable in Italian also). This makes the prediction that i) Asturian should license wide-focus inversion with a null locative with verbs such as vivir (‘to live’), and ii) in general, it should show a much greater incidence of inversion constructions in wide-focus contexts than the other Ibero-Romance varieties discussed here, since Asturian could potentially have “free” inversion with any relevant verb (presumably classified within Class D) c-selecting for LocationP. Nevertheless, intuition suggests there must be some limit to the number of verbs for which Asturian licenses wide-focus inversion as it would seem anomalous for this variety to exhibit so little restriction on the licensing of VS orders relative to other Ibero-Romance varieties. However, I leave investigation of such possibilities to future research.

4.2 Intermediate remarks

The foregoing account explains the similarity between overt and covert ‘locative’ inversion by unifying both constructions under one analysis. On the present proposal, the underlying structure is identical, the difference between the two constructions being whether the locative PP is overtly (55) or covertly (56) realised:

    1. (55)
    1. Spanish
    1. En
    2. in
    1. esta
    2. this
    1. casa
    2. house
    1. murió
    2. died.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. tío.
    2. uncle
    1. ‘Uncle died in this house.’
    1. (56)
    1. Spanish
    1. GoalP
    2. GoalP
    1. murió
    2. died.PST.3SG
    1. el
    2. the
    1. tío.
    2. uncle
    1. ‘Uncle [just recently] died.’

This proposal is more elegant than existing coindexication accounts (Pinto 1997; Tortora 1997). In Pinto (1997), the null locative – the clitic LOC, under her analysis – is present in both overt (57) and covert (58) locative inversion, responsible for EPP satisfaction, and must be coindexed with the overt PP in overt constructions:

    1. (57)
    1. PP [IPLOCi-Vj [VPSUBJtjti ]]
    1. (58)
    1. [IPLOCi-Vj [VPSUBJtjti ]]

A simpler explanation is that, as already proposed above, Italian does not have LocationP in its lexical entry, so must overtly realise this type of locative PP. Since the PP in locative inversion constructions must surface in clause-initial position, whether overt or covert (Pinto 1997: 57), we must assume that the EPP requirement holds. Moreover, the EPP can be satisfied by a non-subject element: by a PP (containing a DP) when overt, and by the null locative PP containing Kayne’s (2005) PLACE DP when covert.

Thus whether a PP is overtly or covertly realised is partly dependent on the semantics of the verb in question, since inversion verbs must be able to c-select for the relevant kind of null locative PP. However, it is also dependent on the availability of the different types of null locative in a given variety’s lexicon. By accounting for the distribution of wide-focus inversion constructions across Ibero-Romance in terms of the availability of the null locatives, the variation observed is reduced to cross-varietal differences in lexical entries. In this sense, the present proposal conforms to the Borer-Chomsky conjecture (viz. “all parameters of variation are attributable to differences in the features of particular items (e.g. the functional heads) in the Lexicon” (Baker 2008: 3)). If we wish to think in terms of recently proposed parameter hierarchies (Roberts 2012), then the type of variation attested in Ibero-Romance is to be found at the nanoparametric level, where the observed differences are reducible to the idiosyncrasies of the lexical items in the languages involved.

4.3 Wide-focus ‘locative’ inversion and the left periphery

The previous section (tentatively) predicts that DeixisP and GoalP are available across Ibero-Romance, with SourceP present in Asturian and European Spanish but not in the other Ibero-Romance varieties, and LocationP available in Asturian only. However, if DeixisP and GoalP are available in all varieties, and no other factors are considered, the systematic variation encountered cannot be fully explained. The analysis predicts that inversion constructions involving a null locative should only differ in three ways across Ibero-Romance, whereas the variation observed is much more complex. Consider the following:24

From the above, we can observe that:

  1. When a SV/VS alternation is available in European Spanish, there is a strong “preference”25 for a VS order with Class A verbs, a preference for VS with Class B verbs, and a strong preference for SV with Class C verbs;
  2. When a SV/VS alternation is available in River-Plate Spanish, there is a preference for VS with Class A verbs, but a preference for SV with Class B verbs (there is no alternation available with Class C verbs);
  3. When a SV/VS alternation is available in European Portuguese, the preference is for SV, irrespective of verb type;
  4. There are systematic differences in inversion vs. non-inversion preferences which correspond to the verbal groupings (Classes A, B, C [and D]).

The preferences – a notion invalid in the current framework – cannot only be attributed to idiosyncratic differences in how informants interpret the context. Instead, the high degree of systematic variation necessitates a grammatical explanation. In what follows, we reconsider the availability of null locatives, proposing a four-way distinction across Ibero-Romance and concluding that the illusion of speaker “preferences” is an effect of the cross-varietal availability of the null locatives and where they can surface in the TP/CP border and left periphery.

4.3.1 Reconsidering the availability of the null locative

The hypothesis that GoalP and DeixisP are available across Ibero-Romance makes the wrong predictions as it suggests a three-way divide in wide-focus inversion patterning, a distribution in contradiction of the fine-grained variation observed. We therefore readjust our account as follows.

The original hypothesis assumes both GoalP and DeixisP are available in European Portuguese. However, suppose that, in a given scenario, a Class B verb such as entrar (‘to enter’) c-selects for a GoalP, resulting in an inversion construction. A deictic interpretation should be unavailable because neither verb nor locative argument encodes a deictic feature. Nevertheless, Sheehan (2006; 2010) has independently established that wide-focus inversion does entail a deictic interpretation in this context. As elsewhere, we assume an empirically-justified syntactic explanation is preferable to the postulation of a pragmatic procedure. Since deixis is always involved in the interpretation of null locative inversion in Italian (Pinto 1997), it follows that Italian only has one type of covert argument, which must be DeixisP.26 Given the parallels observed between Italian and European Portuguese elsewhere (sc. unavailability of SourceP and LocationP; restricted inversion relative to Spanish; subject prominence), it is plausible that European Portuguese parallels Italian in that it also only has one null locative argument, DeixisP.

If this is the case, then this cross-varietal distribution of null locatives should be revised as follows:

The structural explanation below completes the account of Ibero-Romance wide-focus inversion.

4.3.2 A structural explanation

Intuition suggests that Ibero-Romance’s fine-grained variation is a result of differences in where the locative surfaces at the TP/CP border and left periphery. Since deixis is a key element in ‘locative’ wide-focus inversion, an explanation of the variation observed would logically involve the C-domain, the area of the clausal spine associated with discourse. Yet deixis is the concept which has been least clearly defined in the proposal so far. Informants suggest that locative constructions can be more strongly or weakly deictic in the scope of their reference.27 For example, in the following inversion construction with the Class A verb venir/vir, the sentence is unambiguously anchored in the speaker’s domain, necessarily referring to the speaker’s location:

    1. (57)
    1. European Spanish
    1. Ha
    2. AUX.3SG
    1. venido
    2. come.PST.PTCP
    1. María.
    2. María
    1. ‘Maria has come [here].’

However, in an inversion construction involving a Class B verb, such as Spanish Murió la abuela (‘Grandma died’), the deictic interpretation is less clearly defined: here, the event happened recently according to the speaker’s timescale, but its temporal coordinates are less exact than their spatial counterparts in (57). If we accept that languages may have multiple subject positions (Diesing 1992; Kiss 1996; McCloskey 1997; Cardinaletti 2004; Ledgeway 2010), we can plausibly assume that, given its subject-like properties, the null locative may surface in more than one structural position, where each position is associated with a (subtly) different deictic/pragmatic interpretation. A corollary assumption is that the different types of null locative surface in a position encoding a corresponding feature.

Thus we would expect that in European Portuguese, which has only one null locative (DeixisP), only one corresponding position should be available. Likewise two, three and four structural positions should be available respectively in River-Plate Spanish, European Spanish and Asturian, reflecting the number and types of null locatives lexicalised in each variety. The availability of the null locatives, and their predicted corresponding structural positions, yields the number of “preferences” observed per variety (cf. Tables 3, 4, 5). However, since the different positions in which the subject or null locatives could appear have not been tested here, the analysis remains speculative. Nevertheless, the following section captures these intuitions in formal terms.

Table 4

Reduced summary of Ibero-Romance word-order distribution.

ES RS EP

To come (Class A) VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS
To call (Class B) VS/SV VS/SV SV/VS
To enter (Class B) VS/SV SV/VS SV/VS
To die (Class B) VS/SV SV/VS SV/VS
To leave [salir/sair] (Class C) SV(VS) SV SV

Table 5

Revised availability of Ibero-Romance null locatives.

Verb class Features/projections Null locative Availability

A (e.g. venir/vir ‘to come’) Deixis, goal, location DeixisP Ast, ES, RS, EP/BP
B (e.g. entrar ‘to enter’) Goal, location GoalP Ast, ES, RS, EP/BP
C (e.g. salir ‘to leave’) Source, deixis, goal, location SourceP Ast, ES
D (e.g. llorar ‘to cry’) Location LocationP Ast

4.3.3 A formal analysis

The traditional formulation of the EPP – which we have thus far assumed the null locative is capable of satisfying – requires a preverbal subject to surface in SpecTP. However, various authors (for instance, Rizzi & Shlonsky 2006 for English; Sheehan 2010 for Romance) have suggested that, in locative inversion constructions, the locative PP surfaces in SpecFinP (where Fin is the lowest available position within a Rizzian split CP). Thus we assume that: i) the null locative does not necessarily have to surface in SpecTP in order to satisfy the EPP, and ii) the C-domain has its own internal structure (Rizzi 1997; Speas & Tenny 2003; Sigurðsson 2010).

Sigurðsson (2010: 161) proposes that Fin “splits into two separate (but commonly indistinguishable) head features, a temporal one and a locational one, that is, Speech Time and Speech Location, ST and SL (the basic NOW and HERE of the utterance)”. In his account, there are context-linkers and speaker and hearer features encoded in the CP which are “inherent features of the syntactic speech event” (2010: 162).28 Context-linking is understood to be a general notion that involves setting the values of argumental and adverbial topics according to elements in the deictic or discourse context; dedicated projections for topics are thus replaced by the more general CLN, which licenses context-sensitive semantic variables:

    1. (60)
    1. [CP Force… CLN … Fin [TP …]

Between CLN and Fin are features for speaker (or logophoric agent, ΛA) and hearer (logophoric patient, ΛP). The structure assumed for the CP is thus:

    1. (61)

We can extend our previously-established analogies (cf. Table 5) between the various elements associated with ‘locative’ wide-focus inversion to include Sigurðsson (2010)’s features, as illustrated in Table 6:

Table 6

Correspondences between Sigurðsson’s (2010) features/structural positions, type of null locative, verbs and features.29

Features/structural position Null locatives Verb class Features

CLN SourceP C (e.g. salir/sair) Source, deixis, goal, location
ΛA DeixisP A (e.g. venir/vir) Deixis, goal, location
ST, SL (Fin) GoalP B (e.g. entrar) Goal, location
[tbd] LocationP D (e.g. llorar) Location

CLN corresponds to SourceP and Class C verbs due to these elements’ associations with a weaker or more generalised deixis. ΛA relates to DeixisP and Class A verbs on account of their association with (interpretations involving) speaker orientation. Fin corresponds to GoalP and Class B verbs since Fin either encodes Speech Time or Location, which relates to the interpretations of the pertinent verbs, and these c-select GoalP.30 Furthermore, the correspondences allow us to predict the structural position corresponding to LocationP and the (Class D) unergative verbs encoding static location (only). We deduce that this position is either a) T, a logical conclusion since an argument surfacing in T can satisfy the EPP (i.e. in SpecTP); or b) a projection internal to, or corresponding to, Fin that encodes Speech Location (SL) only, also a logical conclusion since LocationP involves a deictic interpretation. We opt for the second possibility, as this allows us to maintain the crucial deictic interpretation for the VS order, and link it to an independently-motivated locative feature. This gives us the following structural positions (if the second hypothesis, viz. that LocationP corresponds to SL, is correct, we reason that, since the structure of LocationP is a subset of GoalP’s structure, ST must be higher than SL in the functional structure, as is also suggested in Sigurðsson 2004):

    1. (62)
    1. [CP CLN… ΛA… ST… SL [TP T…]

If Sigurðsson’s heads have movement-triggering features on them, then, depending on the head(s) associated with a given interpretation, the null locative could surface in different positions within the clausal architecture. The combination of different structural positions associated with Sigurðsson’s features plus the availability of different types of null locative could plausibly account for Ibero-Romance variation. We posit a possible account below.

4.3.3.1 Feature scattering

Giorgi & Pianesi’s (1997) ‘feature scattering principle’ states that each feature can head a projection, but that their distribution in the clausal architecture may vary cross-linguistically: features can be syncretically bundled together or they can be scattered to differing degrees. In the case of Ibero-Romance, Sheehan (2010) suggests that, in Spanish, discourse features are bundled on Fin whereas in European Portuguese they are scattered higher in the C-domain, most have a movement-triggering feature each, and do not appear on Fin. The structures she proposes are the following (examples from Sheehan 2010: 247–8, where uφ represents unvalued person/number features and the diacritic * corresponds to a movement-triggering feature):

    1. (63)
    1. CP in Spanish (features bundled on Fin[iteness])
    2. Force Topic Finiteness [(Focus)/(Topic)/(Emphatic), uφ, *…]
    1. (64)
    1. CP in European Portuguese (features scattered across CP)
    2. Force (Topic*) (Focus) (Emphatic*) (Topic*) Finiteness [uφ*…]
    1.  
    1. Sheehan conjectures that, for reasons of economy,31 in Spanish, the EPP will trigger movement of a discourse feature to SpecFinP, over movement of the subject to SpecTP. In European Portuguese, conversely, the scattering of features in the C-domain results in an EPP largely disassociated from discourse effects. Thus, even if an XP moves to the CP for discourse reasons, the subject still has to move to SpecTP. The exception, Sheehan claims, is locative inversion, in which the PP is assumed to surface in Fin.

Let us assume that Sheehan’s proposal for the CPs of Spanish and Portuguese holds. Now suppose that the discourse features in the respective CPs include, or can be substituted by, those of Sigurðsson (2010). If these can be associated with the movement-triggering feature which usually appears on T and is responsible for the EPP of Chomsky (1982), we can elaborate a (somewhat stipulative, admittedly) proposal which explains the “preferences” of Ibero-Romance in similar terms. That is, the association of T’s movement-triggering feature with a discourse feature such as ST in the clausal left-edge could cause a null locative PP to move from its base-generated position to the specifier of a low discourse-related C-head (i.e. SpecFinP), resulting in a surface VS structure (or, strictly speaking, a PPVS structure, where the PP is null). Discourse features which are bundled on a lower projection (as proposed for Spanish) are thus more likely to trigger movement than those scattered higher in the CP (as proposed for Portuguese), since the former can attract a discourse-element by way of exceptional EPP satisfaction à la Sheehan (2010) but the latter cannot.

Before presenting the specifics of our (speculative) account, Table 7 summarises for reference the key details relevant to the analysis:

Table 7

Null locative availability according to language with corresponding positions and word-order “preferences”.

No. locatives available Structural position(s) available with associated locative PPs and word-order “preferences”:
SourceP DeixisP GoalP LocationP
Ast 4 CLN SV ΛA VS ST VS SL SV
ES 3 CLN SV ΛA VS ST VS / /
RS 2 / / ΛA VS ST SV / /
EP 1 / / ΛA SV / / / /

As CLN appears very far to the left within the CP, we assume that it is too high for the movement-triggering feature belonging to T to associate itself with. The SV/VS alternation is then only dependent on whether a null locative is present in the numeration, in which case it moves to SpecTP to satisfy the EPP, leading to the impression of a so-called “neutral” preference (SV/VS). Since ΛA and ST, SL are lower, T’s movement-triggering feature can more plausibly associate itself with these discourse features. In European Spanish, these features are presumably bundled on Fin. Therefore, there are more factors involved in the SV/VS alternation, which is, firstly, dependent on whether these features are present. If they are, then T’s movement-triggering feature will associate itself with them; if not, then the EPP will cause any available null locative (i.e. SourceP, DeixisP or GoalP in the case of European Spanish) to fill the canonical subject position. The multiple factors involved give the impression of a VS “preference”. We attribute the stronger inversion preference of DeixisP over GoalP (and related inversion verbs) due to DeixisP actually encoding both ΛA and ST/SL (appearing on Fin), whereas GoalP only encodes ST and SL.32

Note that our analysis does not necessarily preclude an SV order from involving a deictic interpretation: as indicated by the results of our the empirical survey (§3), the interpretation of a non-inversion structure is underspecified with respect to deixis rather than being marked by its absence, contrasting with inversion structures which have a [+deixis] reading. Translated into theoretical terms, these empirical findings suggest that a null locative PP could be selected by an inversion verb but would not necessarily have to involve an inverted order, for example if the null locative is subsequently attracted to a discourse feature high in the left-periphery (i.e. a position from which the EPP could not be satisfied, thereby necessitating the subject to fulfil the requirement by movement to SpecTP, resulting in an SV order).

Indeed, in European Portuguese, a “neutral” preference obtains since the discourse features are scattered in the CP, and the EPP is therefore separated from discourse effects. DeixisP values its features via a long-distance agreement operation and does not surface in a higher position since ΛA presumably lacks a movement-triggering feature of its own. Thus the null locative satisfies the EPP in the usual way. Asturian is assumed to show essentially the same distribution as European Spanish. Whether it is SL (appearing on Fin according to Sigurðsson 2010) or T that corresponds to the fourth position available in this language changes little, since EPP satisfaction is already possible from both these positions anyway. River-Plate Spanish is assumed to pattern somewhere between European Spanish and European Portuguese; that is, we expect fewer syncretic features on Fin than in European Spanish, but less feature-scattering across the CP than in European Portuguese.

If the above discussion is on the right lines, then the questionable notion of “preference” receives a grammatical explanation, dependent on the types of null locative available in a given variety and where these can appear in the TP/CP border and left periphery.33

5 Conclusions

The evidence presented here – preverbal subject positions, a basic SVO word order, infelicitous instances of wide-focus VS constructions – indicates that null-subject accounts appealing to the pronominal properties of rich verbal inflection do not make the correct predictions for Ibero-Romance. Our findings are thus better supported by null-subject analyses involving an empty pronoun pro. Nonetheless, the wide-focus inversion phenomena investigated here cannot be directly related to the null-subject parameter, since Brazilian Portuguese, a partial NSL, licences these constructions under the same general conditions as those of consistent NSLs (sc. the availability of null locatives), in line with a lexicon-oriented approach to parametric variation. The formal analysis put forward to capture the systematic complexity of Ibero-Romance wide-focus inversion provides an elegant account of the variation observed, unifying overt and covert locative constructions under a single analysis, and suggests the potential for development across wider comparative domains. However, further investigation is necessary to establish its cross-linguistic validity.