Gender and Number Microvariation (GENUMIC)

In Romance languages, noun phrases (NP/DP) show internal harmony: all modifiers (articles, adjectives and quantifiers) are marked for the same gender and number of the head noun. In non-standard varieties, however, the regularity of agreement starts teetering. E.g., in some Western- Romance varieties, the contrast between and can be neutralised, as the pl marker appears only on some of the logically possible subsets of elements in an NP/DP. This new empirical evidence compels us to reconsider the whole mechanism of agreement and its marking. Previous analyses of pl marker distribution are limited to either a small subset of nominal expressions or a restricted set of linguistic varieties, and they all concord in describing partial agreement as due to some morphosyntactic mechanism. These empirical and theoretical limitations represent a serious problem, for they can lead to wrong analyses and reach incorrect conclusions concerning the architecture and the properties of human language faculty. The research proposal focuses on pl marker distribution throughout several Italo-Romance varieties displaying partial agreement, which is characterised by both a diatopic and a diachronic microvariation. In order to evaluate the role played by language contact in shaping such a microvariaton, heritage varieties spoken in Belgium that correspond to the relevant Italian varieties will also be included. This will allow for a detailed analysis of the interface system, which holds a central role in the processes of attrition/erosion impacting on language acquisition and therefore on change and variation. Given the focus on heritage/minority varieties, the proposed project also combines, in an interdisciplinary dimension, theoretical linguistics, dialectology and sociolinguistics. Once the data will be collected, a formal model will then be developed in which the observed microvariation will be reduced to (and shed light on) phonology and its interface with morphosyntax.

The GENUMIC-project was awarded to Edoardo Cavirani as a Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Actions – Seal of Excellence Postdoctoral Fellowship by FWO.