[Relative clauses] Silvia Ballarè (U. Bologna) & Pierre Larrivée (U. Caen)
Relatives in the vernacular (French & Italian)
Relatives in the vernacular
This presentation is concerned with the impact of register on syntax. It considers the well-established syntactic regularity of the accessibility hierarchy of relative pronouns (Keenan & Comrie 1977). Relative pronouns with more accessible functions are reported to have a greater quantitative representation in usage (Biber et al 1999: 609-612). Recent corpus research suggest that this prediction is maintained across registers (Hirschberg, Fery & Roth 2014 for German, Wiechman 2014 for English), but that the dominant proportion of more accessible functions is scaled down in the vernacular (Larrivée & Skrovec 2019 for French). Such an observation is counter-intuitive since the vernacular would be expected to give rise to fewer less-accessible functions. An investigation is therefore conducted to test the scaling effect of register that compares the quantitative representation of each function of relative pronouns in exchanges from vernacular and normative registers of contemporary spoken Italian. The comparison confirms that register scales the hierarchy: the proportion of accessible functions is significantly reduced in the vernacular as compared to normative exchanges. The scaling effect is thus proposed to be a vernacular universal.