Passive in motion: the Early Italian auxiliary andare (‘to go’).

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The Italian construction andare ‘to go’ + (transitive) past participle expresses a passive meaning when occurring in a perfective past tense (1), whereas it conveys an additional deontic sense of (impersonal) obligation when used in an imperfective tense (2) (Bertinetto 1991; Giacalone Ramat 2000). A further constraint on the passive reading is represented by the semantics of the participle, necessarily expressing a negative value of ‘loss/destruction’; this value is moreover conceived as ‘non-intentional’, as the impossibility to express the agent (*da qualcuno) shows:(1)I documenti andarono distrutti. (*da qualcuno)the documents go. prf.3pl someone)‘The documents were destroyed.’(2)I documenti vanno conservati.the documents go.3pl preserved. ‘The documents must be preserved.’Both the negative semantics and the lack of agentive implication can be explained by means of the deictic structure of the motion verb involved, which expresses a change of location implying distancing from the speaker’s point of view (Fillmore 1997; Radden 1996). This structure allows a metaphorical-metonymical reinterpretation as ‘accidental/non-intentional deviation from a pre-existing state of affairs’, which explains the grammaticalisation of the motion verb in resultative contexts denoting non-caused (i.e. intransitive) changes of state (e.g. he went mad, see Heine-Kuteva 2002). Drawing upon the insights of Cognitive Grammar (Langacker 1991) and the findings of the theory of grammaticalisation (Heine 1993; Hopper-Traugott 2003; Haspelmath 2004), I argue that the resultative meaning more likely constitutes the basis on which the passive construction arose when the motion verb loses its argumental structure becoming an auxiliaries.This further step, however, needs to be accurately described on the basis of corpus data. A survey of Early Italian (13th-15th centuries), in fact, shows that the passive construction is not originally associated with the negative value and it occasionally allows the presence of agentive prepositional phrases:(3)andata=gli la elezione confirmata dal papa, go.pst.ptcp=to himthe election confirm.pst.ptcpby the Popecostui si mostrò di non la this himselfshow.pst.pfv.3sgof not it volerewant. prs. inf. ‘once the election was confirmed to him by the Pope, he proved not to want it’ (Trec., 149, 14-15).Already limited in Early Italian, the passive construction progressively contracts its range of usage, retracting towards a stable association with verbs denoting ‘(non-intentional) loss/destruction’. Rather than being interpreted as a process of degrammaticalisation, this contraction can also be analysed as a semantic specialization. I discuss how this specialization can be motivated by the deictic meaning of andare, also comparing with the account of Giacalone Ramat and Sansò about the correlate motion verb venire.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCOME and GO off the Beaten Grammaticalization Path
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Publication series

NameTrends in Linguistics Studies and Monographs

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