From: Matthew Reeve <m.j.reeve.99cantab.net>
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Institution: University of London
Program: PhD Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010
Author: Matthew Reeve
Dissertation Title: Clefts
Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
Subject Language(s): English (eng)
The main argument of this thesis is that cleft constructions (and related
constructions) in various languages do not easily submit to a strictly
compositional analysis; that is, there is an apparent mismatch between their
syntax and their semantics. I show that both 'specificational' and 'expletive'
analysis of English clefts fail on both syntactic and interpretative grounds,
and propose an alternative analysis in which the cleft clause is a syntactic
modifier of the clefted XP, but a semantic modifier of the initial pronoun. I
argue that the possibility for a relative clause to have two antecedents in this
way is made possible by the existence of two separate licensing conditions, one
thematic and one syntactic, which are normally satisfied by the same DP, but in
clefts and related constructions can be satisfied by distinct DPs. Next, I
extend the analysis to clefts in Slavonic languages, particularly Russian. These
constructions differ considerably from English clefts in their syntactic
structure, but which show strong interpretative parallels with them. Finally, I
show that certain types of cleft present another type of compositionality
problem: namely, the problem of semantically relating the two DPs in
specificational sentences, the class of sentences to which clefts belong. I
argue that they involve a functional head encoding equative semantics, which
'associates' with the focus of the clause. The superficial
'non-compositionality' of clefts thus reduces to the superficial
'non-compositionality' of association with focus more generally.
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