The negative imperative in southern Calabria. Spirito greco, materia romanza again?

Adam Ledgeway, Norma Schifano, Giuseppina Silvestri

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Much attention has been devoted in the literature to the study of imperatival morphology in Romance, and in particular the distribution and nature of true vs suppletive forms exhibited by positive and negative paradigms. Within this scenario we consider below a special case of suppletion in the paradigm of the negative imperative in some dialects of southern Calabria (§2). The relevant paradigms are special in several key respects. First, they involve the extension of an original infinitival desinence to a present indicative verb, giving rise to a hybrid imperatival form which exceptionally marries together finite and non-finite inflexional markings. Second, the synchronic comparison of these southern Calabrian varieties allows us a rare opportunity to reconstruct in diachrony the emergence and extension of the relevant suppletive pattern across different persons. Third, the patterns of suppletion in southern Calabria just outlined do not represent a Romance-internal development but, rather, the outcome of contact-induced change and, in particular, the influence of the local Greek sub-/adstrate on the surrounding Romance varieties (§3). The resultant system of formal paradigmatic oppositions thus reproduces an underlying Greek model, not a Romance one, giving rise to a case of what Rohlfs famously termed spirito greco, materia romanza (‘Greek spirit, Romance material’). At the same time, these Greek-Romance hybrid patterns also provide significant evidence for the formal morphosyntactic equivalence between competing Greek finite and Romance non-finite forms of subordination, inasmuch as extension of the infinitival desinence never penetrates those imperatival forms introduced by a Greek-style modal subordinator (§4). Finally, the extension of the Romance infinitival desinence according to an underlying Greek model, although initially a manifestation of a suppletive pattern, will be shown to yield in synchrony a novel true imperatival pattern and, in turn, an alternation between a suppletive positive imperative and a true negative imperative, a typologically very rare formal opposition otherwise not attested in Romance or beyond (§5).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-219
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Language Contact
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2021


  • Calabrian
  • Italo-Greek
  • infinitive
  • language contact
  • negative imperative
  • suppletion


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