LINGUIST List 16.839
Sat Mar 19 2005
Review: Syntax/Semantics: Coene & d'Hulst (2003)
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From NP to DP: Volume 1: The syntax and semantics of ...
Message 1: From NP to DP: Volume 1: The syntax and semantics of ...
From: Miguel Rodríguez-Mondoñedo <Miguel.Rodriguez-Mondonedohuskymail.uconn.edu>
Subject: From NP to DP: Volume 1: The syntax and semantics of ...
EDITOR: Coene, Martine; d'Hulst, Yves
TITLE: From NP to DP
SUBTITLE: Volume 1: The Syntax and Semantics of Noun Phrases
SERIES: Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 55
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/14/14-2245.html
Miguel Rodriguez-Mondonedo, Department of Linguistics, University of
[Miguel Rodriguez-Mondonedo's review of From NP to DP, Volume 2,
appeared in http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-1743.html --Eds.]
The works collected in this volume constitute one of the most valuable
bodies of research on the syntax and semantics of Noun Phrases and
Determiner Phrases (NP/DP), which was first presented at the international
conference From NP to DP at the University of Antwerp (2000). The editors,
Martine Coene and Yves D'hulst, open the book with a superb introduction
that takes the reader from the most elementary aspects of NP/DP to some of
their most sophisticated syntactic and semantic properties.
I will summarize each of the thirteen papers first, and then I will make
some general comments.
The first paper is "Determiner Phrases in Old and Modern French" by Paul
Boucher. The author proposes that the loss of Latin case morphology is not
the only reason for the presence of determiners in Modern French, but also
the attachment of deictic pronouns to NP, a process that transformed KaseP
into DP. These pronouns were optional in Old French, because this language
had a strong nominal morphology, which links the evolution of NP/DP to the
development of the pro-drop parameter in French. In addition, French
underwent changes in the position of word stress, which led to semantic
transformations and word-order modifications inside NP/DP.
The second paper, "On pro-nouns and other 'pronouns'," by Rose-Marie
Dechaine and Martina Wiltschko, proposes that there are three types of
pronouns: pro-NP, pro-PhiP and pro-DP, which project different syntactic
structures, therefore rejecting the claim that all pronouns are DPs. Pro-
NP are like lexical nouns, they project NP, can occur in predicate
positions and behave like constants; for instance, Japanese "kare" (he) or
English "one". Pro-PhiP are the mere spell-out of Phi features, and they
behave like a variable (subject to Condition B), without restrictions on
their distributions (they can be arguments or predicates), as Shuswap
independent pronouns or English Third Person pronouns. Pro-DP are R-
expressions (that are definite, according to Longobardi 1994), that
projects a DP that includes pro-PhiP and pro-NP inside; for instance,
Halkomelen independent pronouns and First and Second Person English
pronouns (that cannot function as bound variables).
"Modification in the Balkan nominal expression: An account of the (A)NA :
AN(*A) order contrast," by Mila Dimitrova-Vulchanova, presents an
explanation for the differences in interpretation between pre- and post-
nominal adjectives, that avoids the problems raised by Cinque's 1994 N-
movement and Adjective-movement hypothesis. In particular, it can account
for the differences in interpretation between adjectives in those
positions, the mirror distributions between French post-N and English pre-
N adjectives---compare "un tissue ANGLAIS CHER" (French, literally: "a
fabric English expensive") and "an EXPENSIVE ENGLISH fabric"---, the
fluctuation in pre-N modifiers in Bulgarian, the scope effects between
adjectives in both sides of the noun, among other phenomena in Romanian
and Albanian. To solve these problems, the author uses Bouchard's 1998
compositional syntax/semantics isomorphy, where merge operations are
driven by the content to be expressed; in this way, a pre-N adjective is
both head and sister of N (thus, it is able to modify the denotation of
N), whereas a post-N adjective is a phrasal modifier of N.
"Subnominal empty categories as subordinate topics," by Petra Sleeman,
attempts to account for the asymmetry in noun ellipsis between French
subjects and objects, for instance:
(1) Trois parlent l'italian 'Three speak Italian'
(2) * J'ai vu trois 'I have seen three'
The author rejects purely syntactic explanations (like Pollock 1998) in
favor of a pragmatic/semantic one, according to which the ellipsis is
licensed if the whole DP is a topic or if the elided noun is in a
subordinate f-structure (in the sense of Erteschik-Shir's 1997, 1999).
Since subjects are normally topics, this accounts for (1)-(2). It also
accounts for the reversal asymmetry found with quantitative French
clitic "en," since this is a mean to create a subordinate f-structure
(where the empty noun is a topic, and "en" is focalized).
" 'Transparent' free relatives as a special instance of 'standard' free
relatives," by Alexander Grosu, proposes that transparent free relatives
(TFR), like (3), is the same kind of construction of standard free
relatives (SFR), like (4), despite their syntactic and semantic
differences: ["-i" are indices]:
(3) There is what-i may be called [ t-i a revolting large steak] on your plate
(4) Who(ever) steals my purse steals trash
Grosu argues that both SFRs and TFRs trigger Jacobson's 1995 uniqueness
operator, but in TFRs this operator binds a property variable. In that
sense, both have a null element in a external head position, and in both
cases the overt material is internal to the CP; also in both cases the wh-
phrase is in [Spec, CP], but in TFRs it is underspecified in some
respects, and the semantic nucleus, which is the predicate of an equative-
specificational Small Clause, solves this situation---notice in (3) that
the wh-phrase binds the subject of the Small Clause.
In "Resolving number ambiguities in Sakha: Evidence for the Determiner
Phrase as a processing domain," by Edith Kaan and Nadezhda Vinokurova, the
authors proposes that DP is a parsing domain, using as evidence some
ambiguities in Sakha number interpretation. The parsing process closes off
the DP when it is clear that the next word does not belong to the DP. In
that sense, if some material that is clearly out of the DP (adverbs, for
instance), intervenes between a DP and a verb, the verb cannot longer be
used to disambiguate the DP, since it is already closed off. This
mechanism explains the problems that speakers in Sakha have to solve
number ambiguities in these contexts.
"Weak indefinites," by Greg Carlson, attempts to derive the effects of
Diesing's 1992 Mapping Hypothesis (MH) from a semantically-motivated
framework. Carlson, following Bach 1986, assumes that the verbs denote
eventualities, which are not semantically functional (not positions for
arguments), construed as event-types, that are modified by incorporation
of bare nouns to create other eventualities, using a non-propositional
semantics up to VP (no truth-values, no worlds, no times, yet). Precisely,
in the transition from VP to IP, the event-semantics meanings are
projected into the propositional meanings, a process that needs an
existential closure (which, thus, we don't have to stipulate anymore).
Given that weak indefinites are compatible with VP meanings, whereas non-
weak elements require context that cannot be provided by event-types (V,
VP), the effects of MH are deduced (weak indefinites, but not other
elements, must stay in the VP).
"Predicate-argument mismatches and the Adjectival Theory of indefinites,"
by Fred Landman, presents the idea that there is no perfect match between
syntax a semantics. Evidence comes, for instance, from data like the
contrast between (4) and (5):
(4) If Fred and Tanya weren't at the party, and Nirit was, then [every
semantics professor at the party] danced.
(5) #If Fred and Tanya weren't at the party, and Nirit was, then Nirit was
[every semantics professor at the party].
In (4) the phrases in brackets is an argument, whereas in (5) is a
predicate. These mismatches are used to compare Partee's 1987 theory of
interpretation of noun phrases with the Adjective Theory of indefinite
determiners (Link 1987, among others). The author proposes that predicates
are DPs with set interpretation, which is the source for syntax and
"Determinerless nouns: A parametric mapping theory," by Giuseppe
Longobardi, compares Italian and English bare nouns and overt indefinites.
The author proposes that Italian bare nouns are indefinites, in the sense
that they are quantificational expressions that must be closed
existentially or generically. On the other hand, English bare nouns, in
addition to its quantificational interpretation, can have a referential
one (as kinds, for instance). Longobardi relates this to the idea that a
PF-empty D triggers a variable in Italian (and Romance)----but not in
English (and Germanic)---and then, N-to-D movement is necessary to obtain
a referential reading. This means that there is a parametric difference in
the mapping from Syntax to Semantics, which can be reduced to the
possibility (or the necessity) of N-to-D movement.
"A Russellian interpretation of measure nouns," by Almerindo E. Ojeda,
proposes that a metric domain (time, length, width, etc) is an atomless
mereology, that is, a strictly ordered set, both additive and subtractive,
whose elements are atomless. It can be visualized as a circle whose
circumference lacks a point A. If we draw a line from A to the
diametrically opposed point B, we have an isometry (which will be the set
of entities that are measurable). Any chord perpendicular to AB will be
one and only one isometry in a model M, relative to some particular metric
domain. After that, the author proposes to include an isometric closure
under the operation of discrete addition of M. In this sense, a measure
noun refers to a set of metrically equivalent entities, which is parallel
to Russell's interpretation of numerals (sets of numerically equivalent
"Generalizing over quantitative and qualitative constructions," by Jenny
Doetjes and Johan Rooryck, shows that if a quantifier/qualifier expression
(Q) is interpreted as "pure degree" (PDQ) the qualified/quantified noun
(QN) controls external agreement, but if Q is interpreted as a comparative
(CQ) then Q controls the external agreement. Then, PDG and CQ must have
different structures. The authors propose that PDQs are DPs embedded in an
Evaluation Phrase (a la Cinque 1999), whereas CQs have the structure of a
relative clause, with Predicate Inversion (a la Kayne 1994). In addition,
the agreement inside these constructions depends on the feature-
specification of Q.
"On three types of movement within the Dutch nominal domain," by Norbert
Corver, analyzes the differences between Dutch combinations of nouns like:
drie meter zijde
three meter silk
'three meters of silk'
twee flessen wijn
two bottle wine
'two bottles of wine'
een reus van een kerel
a giant of a man
'a man like a giant'
The author suggests that in these cases the second noun (N2) is the
semantic nucleus, but the first noun (N1) is the syntactic one (as shown
by their selectional properties and the corresponding agreement pattern).
He proposes that in all of these cases there is a Small Clause, where N1
is the nominal predicate and N2 is the subject. However, in Dutch, Corver
proposes that in (1) we have an instance of head-movement, in (2) there is
a A-bar-predicate movement, and in (3) A-predicate movement, which account
for the different behavior of these constructions. However, there is no
universal connection between the type of Predicate movement and the
"Semi-lexical nouns, classifiers, and the interpretation(s) of the
pseudopartitive construction," by Melita Stavrou, analyzes Pseudo-
Partitive constructions (PPC)---like "a handful of questions"---. The
author proposes that PPC are a single nominal projection with a single
referent. The quantifier noun is a semi-functional category that is part
of the extended projection in the nominal domain (in fact, a Number
Phrase), that selects a Classifier or Measure Phrase as complement, which
in turn hosts the noun. This predicts a number of interdependencies
between the elements involved in these constructions.
Everybody will likely agree that this is a wonderful book. In one hand, it
presents a collection of fascinating problems related with the syntax and
semantics of DP/NP, as well as very innovative solutions by outstanding
scholars. In the other hand ---and this is a rare property of this kind of
collections--- the editors make a very serious effort to present an
overview with the state of the art in NP/DP research; and they achieve
their goal soundly.
The selection reveals an intriguing absence, however. There is virtually
no mention in the papers regarding extraction from NP/DP, a major topic of
discussion in the field (see Giorgi and Longobardi 1991 and subsequent
work). This collection abounds in papers dealing with the semantics and
the syntax-semantics interface of NP/DP, and enriches this tradition in an
impressive way. It is still too soon to say if this reflects a shift in
the focus of research.
Some issues are recurrent among the papers. The parallelism with the CP-TP-
VP domain is quite salient, even in papers that do not make this explicit
claim. For instance Dechaine and Wiltschko's pro-DP, with a pro-PhiP and a
pro-NP inside could be understood as a predicate domain (pro-NP) embedded
in an agreement domain (pro-Phi), which is inside a referential domain,
mutatis mutandi. Some times, categories borrowed from the verbal domain
are just plugged into the nominal domain, for instance, Doetjes and
Rooryck make use of a Cinquean Evaluation Phrase to solve some of the
problems they are addressing. Stavrou uses a rich extended projection in
the nominal domain to explain the behavior of Pseudo-Partitives. Kaan and
Vinokurova even propose that DP is a domain for parsing, based on the
difficulties to solve some number ambiguities in Sakha.
Movement inside DP is a major topic of discussion, including head
movement. Dimitrova-Vulchanova argues nicely against this possibility in
same cases, but the alternative complicates the syntax-semantic interface.
In addition, Longobardi presents evidence in favor of head movement, with
syntactic and semantic arguments.
Conflicts between syntax and semantics are found and explained. Cover
shows cases where the semantic and the syntactic nucleus are not the same,
which produces several effects. Landman discusses examples where the
semantics of the DP does not correlate with what we expect from its
syntax, and uses these cases to evaluate semantic theories. Sleeman goes
even further and rejects that syntax could explain certain cases of
ellipsis, in favor of a semantic/pragmatic account.
Measures, Quantities, are Qualities are central to the syntax-semantics
interface debate. Doetjes and Rooryck present a unified explanation of
quantifier/quantifier expressions that accounts for the agreement patterns
(but makes use of somehow vague notions like "pure degree"). Ojeda exposes
a beautiful account of the semantics of measure nouns, resorting to an
ingenious geometrical visualization and to a classic conception about
Some old issues are seen from an innovative point of view. Carlson deduces
crucial aspects of Diesing's Mapping Hypothesis, using the semantic of
events. Boucher argues that the presence of determiners cannot be
explained only by the lack of case morphology, but we need to resort to
some syntactic, morphological and even prosodic properties. Grosu unifies
the syntax and semantics of standard and transparent free relatives by
resorting to feature underspecification.
Bach, E.(1986).The algebra of events. Linguistics and Philosophy 9, 5-16.
Bouchard, D. (1998) 'The Distribution and Interpretation of Adjectives in
French: A Consequence of Bare Phrase Structure' Probus 10, 2, 139-183.
Cinque, G. (1994) 'Evidence for Partial N-movement in the Romance DP', in
Paths towards Universal Grammar, ed. by J. Koster, G. Cinque, J.-Y.
Pollock, L. Rizzi, and R. Zanuttini.
Cinque, Guglielmo. (1999). "Adverbs and functional heads: A cross-
linguistic perspective." Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Diesing, M. (1992) Indefinites. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Erteschik-Shir, N. (1997) The Dynamics of Focus Structure. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Erteschik-Shir, Nomi. (1999) 'Focus Structure and Scope', in L. Tuller and
G. Rebuschi (eds) The Grammar of Focus, 119-150. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Giorgi, A. and G. Longobardi (1991). The Syntax of Noun Phrases.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jacobson, Pauline (1995) On the Quantificational Force of English Free
Relatives, in Quantification in Natural Language, ed. by E. Bach, E.
Jelinek, A. Kratzer, B. H. Partee, 451-486. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Kayne, Richard. (1994). The Antisymetry of Syntax: Linguistic Inquiry
Monographs 25. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Longobardi, G. (1994). 'Reference and Proper Names: A Theory of N-movement
in Syntax and Logical Form', Linguistic Inquiry, 25, 4, 1994, 609-655.
Link, G. (1987) 'Generalized Quantifiers and Plurals', in Generalized
Quantifiers: Linguistics and Logical Approaches, ed. by P. Gardenfos, 151-
180. Dordrecht: Reidel.
Partee, Barbara. (1987). 'Noun Phrase Interpretation and Type Shifting
Principles', in Studies in Discourse Representation Theories and the
Theory of Generalized Quantifiers, ed. by J. Groenendijk, D. de Jong, and
M. Stokhof. Dordrecht: Foris.
Pollock, J.-Y. (1998). 'On the Syntax of Subnominal Clitics: Cliticization
and Ellipsis', Syntax, 1, 300-330.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Miguel Rodriguez-Mondonedo is a PhD student in the Department of
Linguistics, in the University of Connecticut. He has done research in DP
structure, Binding Theory (obviation), existential constructions, and
nominalizations, as well as in the acquisition of clitics and differential
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