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From Latin to Romance: Configurationality, Functional Categories and Head-Marking


Department of Italian
Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages
University of Cambridge
Cambridge CB3 9DA


Traditionally, the principal typological difference between Latin and Romance is taken to involve a distinction between morphology and syntax: while Latin predominantly has recourse to synthetic structures, the morphologically poorer Romance varieties make greater use of analytic structures. In this paper I reconsider this traditional theme of Romance linguistics and its repercussions on argument realisation and positional licensing, showing that the predominant analytic patterns of Romance are nothing more than the partial reflex of a more deep-rooted structural change. A priori, this change can be interpreted in terms of at least two competing theoretical explanations, on the one hand the emergence of full configurationality and concomitant projection of functional structure, and a change in the head-directionality parameter with a concomitant shift from specifier- to head-oriented syntax in the domain of functional structure on the other. Following a critical review of the former, it is argued that the relevant changes in the passage from Latin to Romance are best characterised in relation to the latter theory, which also offers a highly natural way of capturing claims about a move from dependent- to head-marking.