Agentless passive has a basic and predominant character, both crosslinguistically and in individual languages, Italian included. It plays an important role also in the particular type of texts represented by newspaper headlines, where it can be used when the agent is really unknown or indefinite and, more interestingly, when the mentioning of the agent must be delayed. The unexpressed agent in the passive can work as an ellipsis, which is mainly anaphoric in most kinds of texts, but cataphoric in newspaper headlines: if there is an agent, it can be inferred in the following context, that is, either in the subhead or in the text of the article. This way the agentless passive allows to delay the expression of an agent which is not so important to be mentioned in the headline and, at the same time, favours the cohesion of the text, because the cataphoric ellipsis and the subsequent agent recovering strenghten the link between the headline and what follows. Furthermore, the agentless passive turns out to be very useful also from the point of view of the information structure, because the lack of the agent expression in the headline opens the way to important operations that otherwise would be impossible. More precisely, we refer to the fact that the subject of the passive (i.e. the patient) can be rhematic, appearing in the postverbal position left free by the agent phrase, while at the same time the thematic position, left free by the subject on its turn, can be occupied by any other element. The agentless passive, in conclusion, reveals also in the particular domain we have analyzed its nature of complex and flexible linguistic resource, which cannot be fully described and understood in depth through the categories of morphosyntax only, but resorting to the means of text linguistics and of the studies on information structure too.

Cerbasi, D. (2008). Agentless passive and information structure: an analysis of Italian newspaper headlines. STUDI ITALIANI DI LINGUISTICA TEORICA E APPLICATA, XXXVII/2, 439-450.

Agentless passive and information structure: an analysis of Italian newspaper headlines

CERBASI, Donato
2008-01-01

Abstract

Agentless passive has a basic and predominant character, both crosslinguistically and in individual languages, Italian included. It plays an important role also in the particular type of texts represented by newspaper headlines, where it can be used when the agent is really unknown or indefinite and, more interestingly, when the mentioning of the agent must be delayed. The unexpressed agent in the passive can work as an ellipsis, which is mainly anaphoric in most kinds of texts, but cataphoric in newspaper headlines: if there is an agent, it can be inferred in the following context, that is, either in the subhead or in the text of the article. This way the agentless passive allows to delay the expression of an agent which is not so important to be mentioned in the headline and, at the same time, favours the cohesion of the text, because the cataphoric ellipsis and the subsequent agent recovering strenghten the link between the headline and what follows. Furthermore, the agentless passive turns out to be very useful also from the point of view of the information structure, because the lack of the agent expression in the headline opens the way to important operations that otherwise would be impossible. More precisely, we refer to the fact that the subject of the passive (i.e. the patient) can be rhematic, appearing in the postverbal position left free by the agent phrase, while at the same time the thematic position, left free by the subject on its turn, can be occupied by any other element. The agentless passive, in conclusion, reveals also in the particular domain we have analyzed its nature of complex and flexible linguistic resource, which cannot be fully described and understood in depth through the categories of morphosyntax only, but resorting to the means of text linguistics and of the studies on information structure too.
Cerbasi, D. (2008). Agentless passive and information structure: an analysis of Italian newspaper headlines. STUDI ITALIANI DI LINGUISTICA TEORICA E APPLICATA, XXXVII/2, 439-450.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11590/146480
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