AUTHOR: Tabea Ihsane
TITLE: The Layered DP
SUBTITLE: Form and meaning of French indefinites
SERIES TITLE: Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 124
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
Phaedra Royle, Université de Montréal, CHU Sainte-Justine, CRLMB
This book is a revised version of Tabea Ihsane's Ph.D. thesis (2006) on the
structure of indefinite D(eterminer)P(hrase)s (the term now used to designate
noun phrases in generative syntax, since Abney, 1987). This thesis attempts to
present a unified account of the semantic-syntactic interface of reference in
French indefinite NPs, focusing on un-NPs (1), du/des-NPs (2) and bare nouns (3)
within contexts where they lack existentiality (4), scope properties (5), or
referential/quantificational interpretation (6).
1. _Un gáteau_
2. _Du gáteau / des gáteaux_
'some cake' (mass reading) / cakes
3. _On a servi gáteau et biscuits_
'cake and biscuits were served'
4. _Je veux un gáteau_
'I want a cake'
5. _Tous les enfants ont mangé un gáteau_
'all the children ate a cake'
6. _Jean veut acheter un livre_
'John wants to buy a book' = some book or other
A second aim of the monograph is to propose a DP internal structure that
reflects the referential properties of these indefinites. The monograph focuses
on the left-periphery and the inflectional domains of DP. In particular, it
develops the notion that the left-periphery of the DP contains different layers
(functional projections) important for the distinction between different types
The thesis is written within the generative grammar framework and more
specifically the 'cartographic' approach established by a number of Romance
linguists. This approach postulates that functional projections in syntax
reflect semantic and discourse referential distinctions. In addition, morphemes
that are not lexical words can head their own projections in syntax, as proposed
by Chomsky (1986). This approach has been used to expand upon the 'left
periphery' of the noun phrase, building a number of functional projections under
DP (Rizzi, 1997). In addition, this approach makes a strong case for parallels
between the structure of I(inflectional)P(hrase) and DP.
This book is organized into five chapters. The first introducing the subject of
study, problematic issues, theoretical framework and data. The second chapter
presents types of un-NPs and their structures, while the third and fourth do the
same for du/des-NPs and bare nouns. The fifth chapter - Conclusion - presents a
unified analysis, predictions for language acquisition and issues for further
research. The book also contains a bibliography and an index.
Chapter 2: _Un_-NPs focuses on argumental indefinite noun-phrases (thus
excluding predicative structures such as _Jean est un professeur_ 'John is a
professor' and generic ones such as _Un chat boit du lait_ 'A cat drinks milk'=
cats drink milk, p. 51). (Note that generic DPs in French usually take plural
definite determiners _les_, or are produced in structures such as _Un chat, ca
boit du lait_ 'A cat, it drinks milk' while predicative structures often have no
overt determiner: _Jean est professeur_). Ihsane proposes a tripartite typology
for indefinites similar to the one outlined in Dobrovie-Sorin and Beyssade
(2004) accounting for S(peaker)-referential (8), quantificational (9) and un-NPs
that encode properties (10).
8. Speaker A: Did you watch Friends yesterday? Is Monica still going out with
that insecure guy?
Speaker B: _Tu devrais [...] savoir que depuis trois saisons, Monica sort
avec un homme (i.e. Chandler)!_ (12, p.60)
'You should know that for three seasons Monica has been dating a man.'
9. _Prenez tous une carte_ 'Please pick a card each'
_ Avez-vous pris une carte?_ 'Have you all picked a card?' (33a/b p.67)
10. _Jean veut un chat_ 'John wants a cat' (40a, p. 70)
The following two chapters focus on _du/des_NPs and bare NPs using a similar
approach to that of chapter 2, thus providing a unified account of indefinite
NPs in French (and English, as bare NPs only appear in coordinated NPs in French).
This book is directed at linguists, and graduate students in syntax more
specifically, interested in the structure of the French DP, romance DPs or the
left periphery. As presented above, Ihsane proposes that ''[a]ssuming a syntax
semantics mapping, the role of information structure and discourse pragmatics
[is] crucial to determine the structure of indefinites, one of the main issues
of [this book]'' (p.18). Thus differences in semantic and scope properties of
the determiners should lead to different syntactic structures, and these
structures will in turn have consequences on the behaviour of the noun-phrase at
the clausal level and on its interpretation at L(ogical)F(orm). A specific goal
is thus to present a theory that can account for the presence or absence of
scope properties of different determiners. Although this approach (semantics
driving syntax driving interpretation) sounds circular, Ihsane defends it while
referring to Beghelli (1995), by saying that the trigger of movement is ''a
scope-independent feature checking mechanism and that each landing site gives
rise to a particular quantificational reading.''(p. 111) For example, the same
determiner _un_ can have a quantificational reading in (9) and a property
reading in (10). This would be the result of their position in the left
periphery, the first being in Q(uantifier)P(hrase) and the second in
Prop(erty)P(hrase). Although Ihsane is initially cautious about the impact of
syntax and semantics on one another, she eventually allows herself to promote a
strong syntax-driven thesis. At the end of Chapter 3 (_Du/des_-NPs), she asserts
that ''...syntax is not about words or morphemes but about features, which allows
more fine-grained distinctions [than words or morphemes do]. This predicts that
structures become more and more complex to encode interpretative features not
considered so far'' (p. 187). Later, in the Conclusion, she asserts that her
study has shown that ''...syntax drives semantics-and not the other way around''
(p. 228). This is debatable, as the opposite point of view has not been
considered in the monograph.
The book is dense in terms of the quantity of theoretical background Ihsane
rounds up to support her analysis of the French DP structure. Definiteness,
reference, quantifier scope and ''strength'' are all issues she discusses in order
to develop her DP typology, and the syntactic structures to which different
types are associated. LDP is replete with syntactic examples, but this is too
much of a good thing. The author too often repeats 'for convenience' examples
she has already provided, sometimes as recently as on the previous page. Many
theoretical points are also repeated throughout the book complete with
supporting grammaticality judgments and syntactic structures. This gave the
reviewer the impression that she was rereading the same passages time and again.
The awkwardness of this format might be the result of the fact that it was based
on a thesis, but the book would have benefited from tighter editing.
Furthermore, although most examples are relevant and provide strong support for
the author's claims, some were doubtful. For example, in a discussion of
problems with Milsark's classification of strong and weak determiners (1974),
Ihsane asserts that individual level predicates do not allow quantificational
noun phases, such as (11). However, this structure is perfectly acceptable to me
and other informants I questioned, and a similar structure (12) is considered by
Ihsane herself to be grammatical in a later chapter.
11. *Every cat is intelligent. (42c., p. 32)
12. Every dog is intelligent. (93b., p. 90)
In addition, the example in (11) is presented in a context attempting to
distinguish existential noun phrases from quantificational noun phrases. The
example is used to attest the fact that quantificational noun phrases are banned
from individual level predicates. However, it should be the existential noun
phrase (13) that they are banned from.
13. *There's every cat in the room.
Another recurring problem is related to grammaticality judgments of French. A
number of examples are given that are considered ungrammatical, but these are
either marginal (i.e. not quite ungrammatical) or even acceptable in some
dialects of French. For example, (14) is perfectly acceptable in Québec French.
This is important as this example is used to justify Quantifier raising with
Pied-Piping of the dominating left-peripheral structure of the DP (i.e., the
preposition _pour_, argued to be in the functional position
S(uject)Ref(erence)P(hrase), must be raised into LF along with the
14. *_Combien de politiciens as tu voté pour?_
'How-many politicians did you vote for?' (p. 105)
The same difficulty appears with structures such as those in (15-16), where
negative and _without_-clauses are presented as evidence for parallel structures
in P(roperty)-un-NPs (_il a un papier_ vs. _il n'a pas de papier_ 'he has a
paper' vs. 'he has no paper') and P-du/des-NPs, because these negative
structures supposedly allow only the b. versions (i.e. without the definite
determiner) in French. This is not in fact the case, as the a. versions are
marginal and not completely disallowed.
15. a. *_Marie n'a pas mangé de la tarte._
b. _Marie n'a pas mangé de tarte._ (p. 145)
'Mary did not eat of (the) pie' = any pie
16. a. *_Elle est revenue sans avoir mangé de la tarte._
b. _Elle est revenue sans avoir mangé de tarte._ (p. 146)
'She came back without having eaten of (the) pie' = any pie
Another problematic section is the one on the internal structure of
_de/des_-NPs. Ihsane proposes that these contain PPs headed by a preposition
_de_ 'of' and that this would account for the impossibility of the partative
reading of *_C'est de Zola que j'ai lu deux des livres_ 'It is of Zola that I
read two of-the books', where _de Zola_ is extracted from the PP. In support of
this, Ihsane presents the structures in (17), where the grammaticality of _de
quoi_ 'of what' is determined by the type of verb used (i.e., verbs which are
ambiguous between a partitive or quantitative reading in (a.), vs. verbs that
only take a quantitative reading in (b.)) However, the (a.) example is marginal,
in that some informants (myself included) find it ungrammatical, while the (b.)
example is also marginal, in that some informants find it grammatical (but not
myself) in Québec French. (Note that I have modified the person marking on the
verb in the second example from Ihsane's to make the structures more comparable).
17. a. _Il m'a demandé de quoi je mangeais._
'He asked me of what I was eating'
b. *_Il m'a demandé de quoi j'apportais._
'He asked me of what I was bringing' (p.133)
Finally, the conclusion chapter is much too short and feels like an
afterthought, or like the obligatory but not very interesting last chapter of a
thesis; indeed something to get done with. The author discusses implications for
language acquisition, further research particularly in terms of the interaction
between aspectual reading and the interpretation of nominal expressions (18-20),
and languages without determiners.
18. _Marie a cueilli des fraises pendant des heures._
'Mary picked strawberries for hours.'
*_Marie a cueilli des fraises en une heure._
'Mary picked strawberries in an hour.'
19 *_Marie a cueilli une fraise / les fraises pendant des heures._
'Mary picked a strawberry / the strawberries for hours.'
_Marie a cueilli une fraise / les fraises en une heure._
'Mary picked a strawberry / the strawberries in an hour.'
20. _Marie a ramassé du coton pendant des heures._
'Mary picked (of-the) cotton for hours.'
*_Marie a cueilli du coton en une heure._
'Mary picked (of-the) cotton in an hour.'
The section on aspect is relatively well developed and its link to language
without determiners, although short, is quite relevant. However the section on
consequences for language acquisition is surely too short. Considering that a
number of researchers have focused on the development of the French
left-periphery in language acquisition (see for ex. Panneman, 2006; Panneman &
Weerman, 2006; Panneman, 2007), Italian (Bernardini, 2004), English (De Villiers
& Roeper, 1995) and Greek (Marinis, 2003), as well as experimental studies on
the processing of DP structures in different languages and populations (Meroni,
2005; Miller & Schmitt, 2005; Ramos, 2000; Stickney, 2007), this could have
easily been included in the conclusions and expansion toward further research.
Abney, S. P. (1987). _The English noun phrase in its sentential aspect._
Unpublished Ph.D., MIT, Cambridge.
Beghelli, F. (1995). _The Phrase Structure of Quantifyer Scope._ Ph.D. Thesis,
Bernardini, P. (2004). _ L'italiano come prima e seconda (madre)lingua. Indagine
longitudinale sullo sviluppo del DP._ [Italian as First and Second (First)
Language: A Longitudinal Study of the Development of the DP] Ph.D. Thesis, Lund
Chomsky, N. (1986). _Barriers._ Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
De Villiers, J. & Roeper, T. (1995). Barriers, Binding, and Acquisition of the
DP-NP Distinction. _Language Acquisition, 4_(1-2), 73-104.
Dobrovie-Sorin, C. & Beyssade, C. (2004) _Définir les indéfinis_ [Defining
Indefinites]. Paris, Éditions CNRS.
Ihsane, Tabea (2006) _The Construction of the DP Domain: From un-NPs and
du/des-NPs in French to bare nouns in Romance and Germanic_, Ph.D. Thesis,
Department of Linguistics, University of Geneva.
Marinis, T. (2003). _The Acquisition of the DP in Modern Greek._ Amsterdam: John
Meroni, L. (2005). _Putting Children in Context: Experimental Studies on
Children's Interpretation of Definite Noun Phrases_ Ph.D. Thesis. University of
Maryland, College Park.
Miller, K. & Schmitt, C. (2005). The Interpretation of Indefinites and Bare
Singulars in Spanish Child Language. In Eddington, D. (Ed.) _Selected
Proceedings of the 6th Conference on the Acquisition of Spanish and Portuguese
as First and Second Languages._ Sommerville, MA: Cascadilla Press, pp 92-101.
Milsark, G. (1974). _Existential Constructions in English._ Ph.D. Thesis, M.I.T.
Pannemann, M. (2006). ''More Variability in French L1: Consequences for Theories
of DP-Acquisition'', in M. Vliegen (ed) _Linguistik International 16. Variation
in Sprachtheorie und Spracherwerb_ Amsterdam: Lang., pp. 223-232.
Pannemann, M. & Weerman, F. (2006). ''DP Acquisition as Structure Unraveling'', in
A. Belletti, E. Bennati, C. Chesi, E. DiDomenico and I. Ferrari (eds) _Language
Acquisition and Development. Proceedings of GALA 2005_, Cambridge UK: Cambridge
Scholars Press, pp. 414-419.
Pannemann, M. (2007). _DP Acquisition as Structure Unravelling_ Doctoral
dissertation, Utrecht : LOT dissertation series 167.
Ramos, E. B. (2000). _Acquisition of noun phrase structure in children with
specific language impairment._ University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Rizzi, L. (1997). The fine structure of the left periphery. In L. Haegeman
(Ed.), _Elements of grammar_ (pp. 281-337.). Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Stickney, H. (2007) Investigations into Children's Acquisition of the Partitive
Structure _Nordlyd, 34_(3), 172-186
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Phaedra Royle holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the Université de Montréal and
pursued postdoctoral studies at the School of Communication Sciences and
Disorders at McGill University. Her interests lie in psycholinguistics, language
disorders (Specific Language Impairment), language acquisition, morphology and
morphosyntax. Her thesis investigated verb processing in language-impaired
French-speaking adolescents and adults. Her postdoctoral research focused on
early verb acquisition in French-speaking children with and without SLI. She is
presently carrying out research on language acquisition (French DPs) and
processing of complex noun-phrases in French- and Spanish-speaking populations
with and without SLI, and ERP imaging of verb processing in French-speaking
adults. She holds a teaching position at the School of Speech Language Pathology
and Audiology at the Université de Montréal, has a research lab at the CHU
Sainte-Justine and is a member of the Centre for Research on Language, Mind and