Varieties of ESSE in Romance languages
In French, Italian, and Romanian, forms inherited from the Latin paradigm 'esse' are used for the copula, the passive auxiliary and tense or perfective auxiliaries. We show that the copula and the passive auxiliary should be identified, while the tense or perfective auxiliaries are different lexemes. Moreover, the copula has the same description across all the Romance languages. While they all are argument inheritance verbs, the copula and the tense or perfective auxiliaries differ with respect to their complement structure: (i) the second only have one complement structure (the complement participle is complement unsaturated), the copula has two complement structures (the predicate is either complement saturated or unsaturated); (ii) French and Italian tense auxiliaries are the head of a flat VP, where the participle is sister to its subcategorized complements, the Romanian perfective auxiliary is the head of a verbal complex; (iii) when the complement predicate is unsaturated, the Romance copula is the head of a flat VP.
Two consequences of the analysis are worth mentioning. First, the copula (and the passive auxiliary) should not be taken into account when stating the environments for auxiliary selection in French and Italian. Second, argument inheritance and complement structure are different phenomena, and argue in favor of theories which systematically distinguish between valence features and constituent structures.