Review of Possessors, Predicates and Movement in the Determiner Phrase
Editors: Artemis Alexiadou and Chris Wilder
Title: Possessor, predicates and movement in the determiner phrase
Publisher: John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam/Philadelphia
Number of Pages: 386
Reviewed by Michael Moss,
This volume of the Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today series presents 12
papers dealing primarily with the developments in generative grammar
regarding the so-called Determiner Phrase and its parallels with the clause.
Ground breaking work in this area was done by Abney in 1987 in his doctoral
dissertation: The English Noun Phrase in its Sentential Aspect. The papers
in this volume also draw heavily from work done by Chomsky (1995), Kayne
(1994) and Szablocsi (1983, 1987, 1994). The main point of exploration
dominating all of the papers is the parallel between Determiner Phrases and
clauses. Importantly, the research presented is based on a variety of
European languages, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Italian, Romanian,
Bulgarian, Albanian and some Hungarian. While the most research is conducted
on Germanic languages, the information gained from other language groups,
including examples from non-Indoeuropean languages gives excellent insight
into the conclusions presented.
The volume on the whole is very well written. Each of the authors presents
his/her research and conclusions very clearly and in a well documented
Parallels between noun phrases (now called determiner phrases) and clauses
have long been noted, especially concerning the subject-like relation
between possessors and nominalized verbs as in "the enemy's destruction of
the city" or "Kolumbus' Entdeckung Amerikas". These papers take such
parallels a step further - implying that movement, extraction, raising and
other 'clausal' phenomena are also present in the DP.
Obviously, another interesting area in DP research concerns possessors,
which have classically been seen as the "Subjects" of DPs. Various
treatments over the years have seen the possessor as a kind of genitive case
assignment, or even as morphologically present "determiner" features. The
first five articles in this volume deal directly with this problem,
presenting various interpretations. The idea of a strong-weak-clitic
division for personal pronouns is introduced by Cardinaletti. The next
paper, by Schoorlemmer researches the types of possessive pronouns found in
Germanic, Slavic and Romance languages, concentrating on the adjective like
behavior of these pronouns. Delsing proposes that possessor phrases and
genitive phrases be kept distinct, using data from Scandinavian dialects.
Lindauer investigates genitive case licensing within DP, finding that
prenominal proper names which appear to be genitive are, in fact,
adjectival, and further that the "subject" position of the DP is actually a
reserved adjectival position. The morphological aspects of genitive case
spell out in DP is covered by Gallman, who raises the question of
'underspecification' in case assignment, using German data as his base.
The remaining articles look into the DP problem from the perspective of
Kayne (1994), which concentrated on the syntax of possession and
modification. First Den Dikken considers the possibility that DP's are in
fact predicate structures using "N-of-a-N" structures as his starting point.
He also has an interesting extension of his theory covering English
possessives such as "a picture of John", "a picture of John's" and "John's
picture". Next Corver takes Den Dikken's ideas as the starting point for an
analysis of pseudopartatives, relating "a bottle/glass/container of wine"
with "N-of-a-N" constructions. Zamparelli attempts to link constructions
involving "kind", "sort" etc. with partatives, using raising and the
introduction of a new semantic operator "Re'" which separates the "residue"
of a group determined in an "of" phrase. The "Re'" operator is also
accompanied by an RP (Residue Phrase) which introduces "of" into partitive
constructions. The multiple determiner phenomenon in Greek is investigated
seriously by Alexiadou and Wilder in their article, leading them to the
conclusion that each adjective phrase in Greek be interpreted as a separate
reduced clausal phrase under the DP. Continuing this line of thought,
Dimitrova-Vulchanova and Giusti examine enclitic definite articles in
Albanian, Romanian and Bulgarian with a non standard interpretation of the
results. Finally Uriagereka looks at the differences between noun phrases
headed by proper names and those headed by common nouns. He argues that
common nouns are more flexible than proper names due to the fact that they
are syntactically complex, while proper names are 'syntactic atoms' with no
This book will be very useful to people doing research in the minimalist
framework especially due to the data gathered from Germanic and other
European languages. It is obvious that this kind of data increases the
accuracy with which generative models can describe the inner workings of
language. While the basis of the volume is the DP-hypothesis as set forth by
Abney (1987), the articles take the idea further, testing and modyfing the
original hypothesis to account for new data. Several of the articles also
delve into the important question of the Determiner itself, and its
syntactic and semantic roles in language.
Abney, S. 1987. The English Noun Phrase in its Sentential Aspect, Doctoral
Chomsky, Noam. 1995.The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, Mass.:MIT.
Kayne, R. 1994. The Antisymmetry of Syntax. Cambridge, Mass.:MIT
Szablocsi, A. 1983. The possessor that ran away from home. The linguistic
Szablocsi, A. 1987. Functional categories in the noun phrase. in I. Kenesci,
ed., Approaches to Hungarian, vol. 2. University of Budapest.
Szablocsi, A. 1994. The Noun Phrase. in F. Kiefer and K. Kiss eds. The
Syntactic Structure of Hungarian (Syntax and Semantics vol. 27). San
Diego:Academic Press, 179-274.
I am currently writing my doctoral dissertation at the University of Gdansk,
Poland on "Agreement phenomena in generative grammar". My research interests
include: generative syntax, morphology, the "minimalist approach" and models
of grammar which limit the use of movement and transformations in their
explanations of linguistic phenomena.
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