Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 323–363 | Cite as

Free choice free relative clauses in Italian and Romanian

  • Ivano CaponigroEmail author
  • Anamaria Fălăuş


This paper aims to bring back to the linguistic scene a largely neglected character that is encountered in Italian and Romanian. This character exhibits a novel combination of morphological, syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic features that, separately, are already attested across languages. It looks like an embedded non-interrogative wh-clause introduced by a wh-phrase that is either made of or contains a wh-root with an affix: the suffix -unque in Italian or the prefix ori- in Romanian. We show that this construction exhibits the same morpho-syntactic properties as -ever free relative clauses in English and the same semantic and pragmatic properties as headed relative clauses introduced by the free choice determiner any in English. Therefore, we label our character a free choice free relative clause. We argue for a syntactic analysis of free choice free relative clauses as true free relatives rather than headed relatives and for a semantic analysis along the lines of some recent proposals about related free choice constructions. We also discuss the meaning of wh-words occurring in free choice free relatives and in related constructions and emphasize the importance of not taking for granted that morpho-syntactic identity necessarily coincides with semantic and pragmatic identity across languages.


Free choice Free relative clauses Free choice “any” Wh-words 



We are extremely grateful to Gennaro Chierchia, Veneeta Dayal, and Donka Farkas for their invaluable suggestions, comments, and criticism, in addition to the inspiration they provided with their own work. We would like to thank Emanuela Arosio, Andrea Beltrama, Luciano Caponigro, Gennaro Chierchia, Flavio Feniello, Onelia Rivolta, Jacopo Romoli, and Ubaldo Talarico for sharing their native intuitions and judgments about Italian, as well as Oana Draga, Donka Farkas, Ion Giurgea, Oana Lungu, and Andreea Nicolae for sharing their native intuitions and judgments about Romanian. We are also grateful to Guglielmo Cinque, Cleo Condoravdi, Daniel Kane, Gary Patterson, Carson Schütze, Harold Torrence, three anonymous reviewers, and the audiences at the Linguistics Department at Rutgers University and the Linguistics Department at the University of California Santa Cruz. Anamaria Fălăuş gratefully acknowledges funding from the Basque Government (IT769-13). We, the authors, are solely responsible for any remaining mistakes.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Division CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research)Laboratoire de Linguistique de Nantes (UMR 6310)Nantes Cedex 3France

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