|Title:||Bare Nominals, Focus Structure, and Reference in Germanic, Romance and Semitic||Add Dissertation|
|Author:||Murad Salem||Update Dissertation|
|Email:||click here to access email|
|Institution:||Michigan State University, Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African Languages|
|Linguistic Subfield(s):||Semantics; Syntax;|
Arabic, South Levantine
|Abstract:||This thesis is concerned with providing a unified approach to bare nominals crosslinguistically by drawing on the properties of focus structure and word order facts. It essentially seeks to assimilate the seemingly disparate behavior of bare nominals in Palestinian Arabic (PA) and Spanish, on the one hand, and English, on the other, by conceiving of such behavior as stemming from deeper distinctions between these two language groups in the properties of focus and the differences in word order. The picture that emerges is highly restrictive and thus desirably minimizes crosslinguistic variation among these languages.
The proposed analysis argues in the first place that there is no asymmetry in the distribution of bare nominals in PA or Spanish in terms of structural positions. Relying on the behavior of determinerless nominals in the Semitic Construct State, I advance an analysis of bare nominals in the general case that views these nominals as being focalized, or non-topical. Since bare nominals in both PA and Spanish are subject only to an existential interpretation, it seems natural to predict that this analysis would carry over to existential bare nominals in English. This should in fact be the null hypothesis. The present dissertation argues for the accuracy of this prediction.
Once I have established that existential bare nominals are always focused, I set out to explain the differences observed to hold between PA and Spanish, on the one hand, and English, on the other, in the distribution of bare nominals as emanating from deeper distinctions between these two language groups in the properties of focus and word order facts. Word order in English is generally rigid, which rules out the possibility of (de)focalizing constituents through movement. This language, therefore, has recourse to marked focus, i.e. non-contrastively focusing a sentence-internal constituent. By contrast, PA and Spanish enjoy a flexible word order system which makes prosodic movement an option at their disposal; marked focus is accordingly precluded. A bare nominal in PA and Spanish cannot be non-contrastively focused in situ, but would have to be placed in the lowest position in the syntactic tree in terms of c-command, where Nuclear Stress is assigned in these two languages. These basic differences between English, on the one hand, and PA and Spanish, on the other, translate into differences in the distribution of bare nominals.
The proposed analysis also seeks to explain why English expresses genericity via bare nominals whereas PA and Spanish lack that option. I argue that this difference can be pursued along two tacks. First, I make the assumption that generic operators in PA and Spanish cannot bind nominals in a DP with a null or empty head, whereas English generic operators can. Second, due to their focal status, bare nominals in PA and Spanish, just like their English counterparts, cannot be mapped into a restrictive clause of a generic operator. These nominals are always mapped into the nuclear scope. It is then predicted that existential bare nominals in PA and Spanish are never bound by generic operators and these languages make use of the definite article to express genericity.