It is a commonly held view that, in the absence of an overt locative or temporal phrase, broad focus subject inversion in Romance requires a null locative in preverbal position, thus being comparable to locative inversion (Benincà 1988 and subsequent work). The (in)compatibility of a number of verbs and verb classes with this construction, however, has not yet received a principled explanation. Analysing the event structure of the predicates that occur in bare broad focus subject inversion in Italian, we argue that this construction requires a covert Subject of Predication, and this requirement can be satisfied by a thematic goal argument of the verb or a non-thematic situational argument that is inferred when a bounded eventuality is predicated. We explain which predicates take which type of Subject of Predication, and we make falsifiable predictions on the relative compatibility of different verb classes with the construction under investigation. Our predictions are cogent in the null-subject SVO languages that allow broad focus in VS order and rule it out in VOS/VSO order (Leonetti 2017). With our study, we shed light on the lexical-semantic underpinnings of this restriction. Following Bianchi (1993) and Bianchi & Chesi (2014), we propose that this is a thetic construction, in which the postverbal DP remains in its first-merged thematic position. In our analysis, the silent Subject of Predication takes Cardinaletti’s (2004) SubjP position, satisfying Rizzi’s (2005) Subject Criterion.
broad focussubject inversionsubject of predicationthetic sentenceRomanceItalian