top of page
Dissertation (University of Manchester 2010)
Prepositional complementisers in Romance

I discovered the following dissertation topic through numerous sessions with Professor Nigel Vincent, my M.A. supervisor at the University of Manchester, and a gapping hole in the research landscape and an intriguing question which puzzled both of us was how and why Romance prepositional infinitives were formed, especially since they had (as yet) no attestations in Latin whatsoever. Under Professor Vincent's guidance, I offered the following dissertation in which I traced the formal similarities and differences between Latin and (proto-)Romance clausal complementation and proposed some Latin origins for the genesis of Romance prepositional infinitives. This dissertation was submitted to the Department of Linguistics and English Language on the 5th September 2010 and approved by my supervisor, Professor Vincent (first marker), and Dr Paul Bennett (second marker) on the 23rd November 2010. It has since been published in the Graduate Centre in the Samuel Alexander Building, School of Arts, Languages and Linguistics and I have subsequently developed my ideas on this topic in my presentations at the University of Bergamo, Italy (2012) and at the Modern Languages Association Convention (2013), for which see my conference presentations and invited talks. Here is the abstract: 

An abridged version can be found on my academic webpage

This dissertation examines the evolution of Latin complement patterns as they evolve into Romance (with specific reference to Spanish and Italian). It falls into three parts: the first attempts to illustrate Vincent’s account of the changes of Latin complement patterns with concrete examples from Old Spanish and Old Italian (Vincent (1988:66-69)); the second deals with the origins of two Romance prepositional infinitives (namely de + infinitive and ad + infinitive) that have stood out in the survey of the changes of complement patterns and attempts to give a Minimalist interpretation of the grammaticalisation process that has to led to the specialised usages of these two infinitives; and the third narrates the evolution of these two prepositional infinitives from Old Spanish and Old Italian to their modern state. The first part of the dissertation will show that in the evolution from Latin to Romance quod-clause 

has generalised as the default finite complementiser, while de + infinitive and ad + infinitive developed along with it. The former appears in more contexts while the latter only in contexts that imply futurity. The second part begins with a recapitulation of the interpretation of grammaticalisation within the Minimalist framework (Roberts and Roussou (2003)) and will show that  the grammaticalisation that leads to the formation of complementisers (C-elements) is especially interesting for it is not entirely consistent with the Minimalist analysis of grammaticalisation. The grammaticalisation of Latin de and ad will be shown to be similar yet different from Roberts and Roussou’s (2003) case studies of the grammaticalisation of C-elements and is hence interesting. The final part of the dissertation will show that Spanish and Italian undergo different trends of evolution in their treatment of de + infinitive and ad + infinitive and so, in terms of the syntactic development of prepositional infinitives, Spanish and Italian do not show dialectal affinity. 

Dissertation downloadable here:  

Keith Tse


Writing this dissertation was a hell of an experience for me! I cannot even describe my recollections of Summer 2010 when I was doing this, since it really was beyond 'nasty' or 'horrible' or any adjective I can think of in the English language and beyond (!). It was the first time in my life that I had undertaken such a big research project. The topic was also very difficult and complex, since I was delving into very nebulous 

territories, namely the Latin background of Romance prepositional infinitives when prepositional infinitives are not attested anywhere in our extant records of Latin. Nonetheless, under Nigel's superb guidance, I managed to produce this dissertation and pass my M.A. It was a stressful time, but a fruitful one too. 

bottom of page