Reviewed by Marcella Bertuccelli Papi, University of Pisa
Until a few decades ago, historical grammars of Italian have largely neglected the evolution of syntax, concentrating mostly on phonetic and morphological changes. In 2010 the Grammatica dell’italiano antico edited by G. Salvi and L. Renzi (Bologna, il Mulino, 2 vols., pp. 1745), essentially based on generative syntax principles, provided the first modern systematic description of Early Italian Grammar. Two years later, the Sintassi dell’italiano antico edited by Maurizio Dardano provides another significant contribution from a different standpoint: focused on the syntax of complex sentences in Early Italian prose, it is textually and pragmatically oriented, and brings together the results of research carried out for the Syntax Archive of Literary Italian over the last decade. It consists of 16 chapters plus an Introduction by M. Dardano, who is also the author of the first chapter in which the theoretical coordinates shared by the individual studies are set out. The topics covered are the following: the syntax and semantics of the verb (M. Dardano and G. Colella); sentence types (G. Lauta); coordination and subordination (I.Consales); sentential complementation (M. Dardano); relative clauses (E. De Roberto); adverbial clauses: temporal (F. Bianco and R. Digregorio), causal (G. Frenguelli), consecutive (G. Frenguelli), purpose (M. D’Arienzo and G. Frenguelli), conditional (G. Colella), concessive (I. Consales), comparative (A. Pelo), manner (F. Bianco); absolute constructions (E. De Roberto) and reported speech (G. Colella). The chapters are strongly interrelated and, through the analysis of about 2,700 examples drawn from texts belonging to various registers, offer a comprehensive overview of the status of Early Italian Syntax from its origins to the end of the 14th century.
The overarching principles underlying the analyses belong to the functionalist paradigm and are integrated with, and enriched by, the teachings of pragmatic and text linguistics. Many of the phenomena analysed in the individual chapters illustrate the tight interconnections between syntax and pragmatics, showing awareness of the many dimensions involved in language change – from the role of orality to that of literacy, from the legacy of classical rhetoric to the dynamics of genre textuality, from word order typological changes to information structure, discourse strategies and context sensitivity. Each chapter finely describes classes of phenomena that point to scalarity and gradualness, rather than discreteness and finiteness, as the observable outcome of several interacting dimensions. Parataxis and hypotaxis are cases in point: the two extremes of a cline that exhibits variable points of weak and strong dependency, they encode pragmatic relations complying with the communicative principles of intentionality, relevance and salience (1.4.3), and surface in various forms of sequential linearization conforming to principles of iconicity (7), information structure (2.4), referentiality (6, 15), or discourse strategies (16) . On the other hand, the semantic configuration of logico-conceptual categories such as cause and effect underlying different syntactic realizations (8, 9, 10, 11, 12) are shown to be variously modulated under the combined actions of perspectivization, point of view and logical implication.