The new 'ne': an ongoing restandardization process in contemporary Italian
2022-04-14, 09:30–10:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 2

Italian exhibits a set of stressed personal pronouns and a set of clitic personal pronouns. These two paradigms are involved in a large number of restandardization processes, as showed e.g. by Berruto 2017: 43-47. The topic of this talk is the incipient overextension of functions of the clitic 'ne' in contemporary Italian.
In standard Italian 'ne' may stand for prepositional phrases consisting of 'di' + [noun phrase] and 'da' + [noun phrase], such as those found in genitival, partitive and separating locative constructions, or in passive ‘by’-phrases (see examples 1-4). Moreover, 'ne' may refer to human and non-human, singular and plural referents (Cordin 1988; Maiden & Robustelli 2013: 106ff.).

  1. non ho mai incontrato il padre di Luca, ma ne conosco la madre
    ‘I never met Luca’s father, but I know his (lit.: of him) mother’

  2. ho comprato delle mele e ne ho mangiate due
    ‘I bought some apples and I ate two (of them)’

  3. era stato a lavorare in India e poi ne era tornato
    ‘He went to work in India and then he came back (from it)’

  4. ho visto una sola volta quella foto, ma ne sono rimasto molto colpito
    ‘I saw that picture only once, but I was very impressed by it’

However, in contemporary Italian, 'ne' is increasingly found as a substitute of 'a' + [noun phrase] with complex predicates composed of [verb + noun] (ex. 5, Lombardi Vallauri 2018: 98), and also of the second argument of intransitive bivalent verbs (ex. 6), at the expenses of datival and allative clitics 'gli', 'ci', and 'vi'.

  1. allego il pdf dell’invito […], in modo che possa darne rilievo nella Sua testata
    ‘I am attaching the pdf of the invitation, so that You can emphasize it (lit.: give emphasis ??of it/to it) on Your newspaper’

  2. un sentimento che, se non si può chiamare ammirazione, ne assomiglia molto
    ‘a feeling that, if one cannot call it admiration, closely resembles it (lit.: ??of it/to it)’

Drawing on data from written and spoken corpora of Italian, such as CORIS, ItTenTen, CLIPS, BADIP/LIP and KIParla, I will discuss the following hypotheses, formulated on the basis of a pilot test run on two of the corpora mentioned above:
a. the incipient restandardization of 'ne' is a case of change from above, since the use at issue is «moving downwards from bureaucratic, refined formal and educated varieties» (Cerruti 2017: 84);
b. the “new” 'ne' almost exclusively stands for non-human and singular referents.


Berruto G. 2017. What is changing in Italian today? Phenomena of restandardization in syntax and morphology: an overview. In Cerruti M., Crocco C. & Marzo S. (eds)., Towards a New Standard, Berlin, De Gruyter, pp. 31-60.

Cerruti M. 2017. The move towards neo-standard: sub-standard constructions moving upwards, supra-standard constructions moving downwards. In Cerruti M., Crocco C. & Marzo S. (eds), Towards a new standard. Berlin: De Gruyter, pp. 75-88.

Cordin P. 1988. Il clitico «ne». In Renzi L., Salvi G. & Cardinaletti A. (a c. di), Grande grammatica italiana di consultazione. La frase. I sintagmi nominale e preposizionale, vol. I. Bologna: il Mulino, pp. 633-641.

Lombardi Vallauri E. 2018. Diffusione e motivazione di alcune novità recenti nell’uso di parole italiane. Cuadernos de Filología Italiana 25, pp. 79-100.

Maiden M. & Robustelli C. 2013. A Reference Grammar of Modern Italian. New ed. London: Routledge.

Panel affiliation

Sociolinguistic variation in contemporary Italian