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Presence and absence of the locative clitic hi


The behaviour of the Catalan locative pronoun hi is apparently arbitrary: with some movement verbs, sometimes it is necessary sometimes it is not. Even more, sometimes its presence changes the meaning of the sentence or gives rise to an ungrammatical sentence. This is because of the deictic properties of the place of destination. The pronoun hi does not appear when the destination is linked to participants in the communicative situation, or at least to one of them. 

In Catalan, if we do not want to repeat a locative expression during a talk or in a text, we can use the clitic pronoun hi. Thus, in (1b) the pronoun hi represents the static locative complement a Cerdanyola, which appears in (1a), whereas in (2b) the locative pronoun represents the directional (or dynamic) locative complement al teatre.

a. L’actriu vivia a Cerdanyola.
  ‘The actress lived in Cerdanyola’ 

b. L’actriu hi vivia. 
    the actress loc. lived
  ‘The actress lived (t)here’

a. L’actriu es dirigeix al teatre.
    the actress herself walks to the theatre 
    ‘The actress walks to the theatre’

b. L’actriu s’hi dirigeix.
    the actress herself loc. walks 
    ‘The actress walks there’

Without the pronoun hi in (1b) and (2b), the meaning of the sentence changes radically. In (3) the verb viure means ‘to be alive’ and dirigir-se means ‘to direct oneself in a play’.

a. L’actriu vivia.
    ‘The actress was alive’

b. L’actriu es dirigeix.
    ‘The actress directs herself’

Let us focus on the verbs that express movement to a destination, such as in (2). These verbs require a locative complement, which has to be analysed as a selected complement (not an adjunct). This implies that the destination has to be represented at least by the locative pronoun hi, as shown in (4):

a. No han entrat mai al Parlament, però jo sí que hi he entrat.
  not have entered never to the Parliament but I yes that loc. have entered
  ‘They have never entered to Parliament, but I definitely have’

b. No tornarem a aquella platja. No hi tornarem més. 
  not will-return to that beach. not loc. will-return more
  ‘We will not return to that beach. We will never go back again.’

However, in some syntactic contexts, it’s possible to omit the pronoun hi. See (5). In fact, the presence of the pronoun would cause either an ill-formed sentence or a change in the meaning. 

a. Entreu, entreu. Us esperava.
  ‘Come in, come in. I was waiting for you’

b. No m’esperis despert. Avui tornaré tard.
    ‘Don’t wait for me. I’ll be back late today’

Now then, the presence or the absence of the pronoun hi is not arbitrary. The reason is that with some verbs of movement –such as arribar ‘to arrive’, entrar ‘to enter’, pujar ‘to go up’ or tornar ‘to go back’; but not adreçar-se, dirigir-se, o encaminar-se ‘to walk to’– the locative complement is not usually expressed if it has a deictic value; namely, if it is identified with the place where at least one of the participants of the communicative act is (was or will be). Deictic elements are linguistic elements which can only be totally interpreted if all the factors of the enunciation are well-known. Precisely, the contribution of deictic elements is to point at certain aspects of the communicative situation.
Deictic properties underlie several syntactic categories: in the nominal domain (jo ‘I’, aquells ‘those’, teu ‘your’), in the adverbial domain (ara ‘now’, allà ‘there’), in the verbal domain (temporal and person properties attached to verbal roots), and, as defended in this paper, also in the prepositional domain. The deictic properties of a directional locative phrase distinguish between the space linked to the participants of the communicative situation and the space not linked to them. Consequently, the deictic information is decisive for the interpretation of the sentences beyond the syntax, in the interface of the syntax with the semantics and pragmatics.

Let us note that the verbs of directional movement that in (4) require the presence of the pronoun hi representing the locative complement appear in (5) without the pronoun and without any other locative expression. This is because the destination has a deictic value; namely, the place is linked to participants in the communicative situation, or at least to one of them: the speaker in (5a) and the speaker and hearer in (5b).
Our article accounts for the articulation of the deictic properties determining the presence or absence of the pronoun hi in the locative prepositional phrase structure, as well as for the verbs sensitive to the deictic properties of their complements. 

Gemma Rigau

Catalan Philology Department.
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.


Rigau, G. 2020 Presence and Absence of the Locative Clitic HICaplletra 68, p. 99-116. DOI: 10.7203/Caplletra.68.16469

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