On the rise of domain adverbials in Italian: the history of the -mente parlando construction
This paper investigates the history of -mente parlando, a construction that can be used in modern Italian either as a style disjunct (e. g. rigorosamente parlando ‘strictly speaking’) or as a domain adverbial (e. g. economicamente parlando ‘economically speaking’). This functional difference will be accounted for synchronically as a case of constructional polysemy, with different semantic types of adjectives (mainly relational vs non-relational) occurring in the -mente slot leading to a different reading of the whole construction. Diachronically, the constructional polysemy appears to be the result of a metonymic shift from the older STYLE reading to the newer DOMAIN interpretation. A corpus-based investigation will analyze the syntactic, pragmatic and discursive conditions from which the different uses arose. While both variants are attested from the 14th century on, a massive expansion of domain adverbials formed by -mente parlando is observed only in the first half of the 19th century, a tendency which can be explained as a new fashion for “rationalist” discourse organization and which corresponds to similar evolutions described for 19th-century English, French and Spanish.