Linguistics Colloquium: Raffaella Zanuttini (Yale University)

SEP 14, 2017 | 4:15 PM TO 6:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




September 14, 2017: 4:15 PM-6:00 PM




Raffaella Zanuttini (joint work with Jim Wood) (Yale University)  presents: Presentatives in English and Italian


In this work we focus on PRESENTATIVES, a type of clause that has the function of drawing someone’s attention to the presence of a certain entity or set of entities (or of a certain state of affairs) in the context of utterance. Some examples are given below:


(1) a. Here’s Maria. (English)

            b. Ecco Maria. (Italian)

            c. Voilà Maria. (French)

            d. Evo Maria. (Serbian)


Because the syntax of presentatives has not yet been studied extensively (though see Bouchard 1988; Morin 1988; Casalicchio 2013; Hill 2014 for some discussion), we start by describing their form and their function in the two languages we know best, English and Italian. We then sketch a syntactic analysis that captures their properties and, we hope, will ultimately provide an account of the mapping of syntactic form and discourse function that characterizes them.


The key idea we are working with is the following: the syntactic representation of a clause encodes the time when the speaker is speaking and the location of the speaker (Bianchi 2006; Giorgi 2010; Sigurðsson 2004, 2016). In declaratives, interrogatives and imperatives, the heads encoding these features serve as the point of reference for interpreting the time and location of the event denoted by the predicate in the clause. In contrast, in presentatives, they are interpreted as the expression of time and location by themselves, that is, not in relation to another element expressing information about time and location. The syntactic representation of a presentative thus delivers to the level of interpretation a triplet consisting of (i) reference to the time when the speaker is speaking, (ii) reference to the place where the speaker is speaking, and (iii) an entity or an event. This triggers an update to the context that amounts to a call for attention to the presence of that entity (or the unfolding of that event) here and now.



Bianchi, Valentina. 2006. On the syntax of personal arguments. Lingua 116:2023–2067.

Bouchard, Denis. 1988. French voici/voilà and the analysis of pro-drop. Language 64:89–100.

Casalicchio, Jan. 2013. Pseudorelative, gerundi e infiniti nelle varietà romanze: Affinità (solo) superficiali e differenze strutturali. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Padua.

Giorgi, Alessandra. 2010. About the speaker: Towards a syntax of indexicality. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Hill, Virginia. 2014. Vocatives: How Syntax meets with Pragmatics, volume 5. Leiden and Boston: Brill.

Morin, Yves-Charles. 1988. French voici and voilà: A reply to Bouchard. Language 64:101–103. Sigurðsson, Halldór Ármann. 2004. The syntax of Person, Tense and speech features. Journal of Italian Linguistics/Rivista di Linguistica 16:219–251.

Sigurðsson, Halldór Ármann. 2016. The split T analysis. In Finiteness matters: On finiteness-related

phenomena in natural languages, ed. Kristin Melum Eide, 79—92. Amsterdam: John Benjamins

                                         All are welcome!