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Auteur: Anna RICCIO

Transitivity alternation and lexicon-syntax interface in Italian

Abstract/Résumé: This paper focuses on a subtype of transitivity alternation which has received little attention in Italian theoretical literature, in particular verbs which can be construed either with a direct object or with an indirect object headed by the preposition di 'of', such as the following ones: appropriarsi una teoria (tr.) vs. appropriarsi di una teoria (intr.) (lit. 'to take without referencing from someone else's theory'), raccontare una vicenda (tr.) vs. raccontare di una vicenda (intr.) (lit. 'to tell an event'). The arguments una teoria 'a theory' and una vicenda 'an event' are direct core arguments and the alternative expressions di una teoria (lit. 'of a theory') and di una vicenda (lit. 'of an event') are objects of prepositional phrases. The quantitative-qualitative analysis of data, which are collected from Italian dictionaries and corpora, suggests that in certain cases the transitivity alternation may be accompanied by change of meaning (Levin 1993; Levin & Rappaport Hovav 2005). For example with 'raccontare': the single, basic meaning of the verb, which is 'to tell by voice', gets extended to also signify 'to discuss a topic'. With regard to the lexical dimension, the verbal data allow a correlation between the transitivity alternation and the verbal polysemy to be examined (Ravin & Leacock 2000). Consequently, the verb frame alternation is semantically driven. The aim of this study is to show how the syntax-semantics interface analysis developed by Role and Reference Grammar [RRG] (Van Valin & LaPolla 1997; Van Valin 2005) can provide a useful descriptive and theoretical framework for investigating the syntactic and semantic structures of this subtype of transitivity alternation, taking into account, in particular, the pertinent semantic properties of the central participants, viz., the Actor (A) and the Undergoer (U), and the verbal action (V). Levin, B. 1993. Towards a Lexical Organization of English Verbs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Levin, B. & M. Rappaport Hovav. 2005. Argument realization. Cambridge: CUP. Ravin, Y & C. Leacock (eds.). 2000. Polysemy: Theoretical and Computational Approaches. Oxford: Oxford University press. Van Valin, Jr., R. D. 2005. Exploring the syntax-semantics interface. Cambridge: CUP. Van Valin, Jr., R. D. & R. J. LaPolla. 1997. Syntax: Structure, Meaning and Function. Cambridge: CUP.