Hewitt (1998)

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Hewitt, S. 1998. 'The impersonal in Breton', Journal of Celtic Linguistics 7, 1-38. pdf


 Breton verbal syntax is simultaneously VSO and V-2, or more precisely [P = predicate syntagm] PSO/XPSO and [T = tense] T-2. “Bare” presentations begin with a predicate syntagm; “lead-in” presentations with a non-predicate constituent [X = S/O/ADV/CIRC, etc.], which may be either thematic or focused. In “bare” presentation, the negative tense particle ne is sufficient to fill the first position in order to satisfy the T-2 constraint. But in the affirmative, with simple verbs, a dummy auxiliary “do” arises; with auxiliary structures (copula, existential, compound tenses), there is AUX-PRED > PRED-AUX inversion. The apersonal conjugation, formally identical with the 3SG, marking tense, but not person or number, is used before expressed nominal subjects, and after initial subjects in the affirmative. The personal conjugation marking tense, person and number represents the inclusion of post-verbal subject pronouns; it is also used after initial subjects in the negative (subject agreement).
 The impersonal forms in -r and -d constitute a seventh form in the personal conjugation, referring to some indeterminate human subject. In Breton these forms are fully active, may not be used with agentive phrases, and are best translated with French on / English one, even though there is no corresponding pronoun in Breton. Impersonal constructions include the existential, meteorological phenomena, indirect impersonal verbs of the type “it pleases me”, and the impersonal compound passive dañssed e veż “es wird getanzt”. With none of these constructions is it possible to reformulate with an initial subject pronoun. A possible analysis is that what appear to be 3SG verb forms may actually be the independently required apersonal conjugation, with no person/number reference, and that these constructions are thus subjectless.