In this paper we propose a comparative investigation of cleft constructions in German and Italian. Assuming an analysis of clefts in terms of specificational copular sentences, it is shown that asymmetries and similarities between the two languages can be explained in the light of independent properties of relative clauses and nominal predicates. After a brief survey of previous accounts, syntactic and semantic considerations are offered to illustrate and support the present proposal. A morpho-syntactic comparison is then proposed in order to show the major (a)symmetries between German and Italian in cleft constructions, and discourse and prosodic evidence is provided for a derivational analysis in which the clefted Focus is a predicate and the relative DP is a right-hand Topic. Specifically, it is argued that the topicalized relative clause is connected with a non-expletive resumptive pronoun, analyzed as a definite description, which is inserted in the C-domain. The partial similarity concerning postcopular agreement in German and Italian clefts is also explained based on an independent property of the two languages, namely the possibility of licensing a null category in subject position. Though this possibility is very restricted in German and combines with V2 requirements, clefts represent a case in which this option applies (as a type of impersonal construction). In a final section, data concerning quantifier scope and connectedness have been considered: in this respect, it is proposed that these issues, which represent a problem under previous approaches, can obtain a discourse-based explanation in the light of the present analysis.
Frascarelli, M., Ramaglia, F. (2014). "The interpretation of clefting (a)symmetries between Italian and German.". In Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 2012. Selected papers from 'Going Romance' Leuven 2012 [RLLT 6] (pp. 65-89). Amsterdam, Philadelphia : John Benjamins.