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Review of  The Architecture of Determiners

Reviewer: Daiho Kitaoka
Book Title: The Architecture of Determiners
Book Author: Thomas Leu
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Subject Language(s): German
German, Swiss
Language Family(ies): Germanic
Issue Number: 27.2474

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Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


Thomas Leu’s book ‘The Architecture of Determiners’ is a good start to tackle questions about the properties and functions of “this, that, these, the” etc. and other English th- words; but the book leads us far beyond th-. Mainly, but not exclusively, focusing on Germanic languages, in particular, Swiss German, German, and Mainland Scandinavian, the author explores the internal structure and derivation of determiners. He proposes that determiners, except articles, are extended adjectival projections (xAP) including the root, an agreement inflection, and the left-periphery. This proposal provides a unified account for determiners and adjectives, and also illustrates that DP-internal syntax undergoes movement and agreement akin to clausal syntax.

This book is divided into two parts in addition to the introduction and conclusion; D-terminers (Chapters 2-4) and Non-D-Determiners (Chapters 5-7). The first part is devoted to various types of determiners, and the second part deals with “ein” (= a), wh-determiners, and also discusses case and syncretism, in particular in relation to genitives and datives.

After introducing the topic and outlining his proposal in Chapter 1, the author begins his argument with definite demonstratives. Chapter 2 (pp. 11-39) argues that, contrary to the traditional view that demonstratives occupy the specifier position of DP (Giusti 1997, Roehrs 2009, among many others), the demonstrative projects a hierarchical complex structure, consisting of a definite marker such as d- in German demonstratives (“der”), an agreement head (AGRca; “-er” in German; discussed in detail in Chapter 3), and an adjectival component, that is, an unpronounced deictic element (that he describes as HERE or THERE) that denotes a locative modification. The proposed structure and the existence of the deictic locatives are supported by other languages; e.g., Scandinavian (Swedish, Norwegian, Danish), colloquial Slovenian, and Greek. The analysis further extends to other types of adjectival components such as “same” or “other”.

Chapter 3 ‘xAP’ (pp.40-87) extends the proposal to demonstratives into adjectival modification in general. With plenty of empirical data on agreement and configuration of determiner and adjectives, the author proposes the structure and derivation of the extended adjectival projection (that he calls xAP). Namely, the noun is base-generated within the xAP. When the xAP merges with n, the noun is extracted from it to the specifier of nP through a movement akin to the head-raising in relative clauses. The remnant xAP, that is, the surface determiner and adjectives, moves to the specifier of DP, with the result that it precedes the nP. In addition to these movements of modifiers and the noun, xAP itself involves various movements internally, and shows diverse surface configurations depending on various factors. For instance, the weak/strong adjectival declension alternation in German as in (1) is explained by differences in the xAP internal structure and derivation.

(1) a. d-er gute Wein
the-AGRca good wine
b. ein gut-er Wein
a good-AGRca wine
((3.8) in Leu 2015: 44, modified)

Apart from previous studies, putting aside genitives and datives, the author argues that in (1a), since the definite morpheme “d-” blocks the movement of the adjective, “d-” itself carries an agreement marker “–er”. Meanwhile, in (1b), the adjective moves to the specifier of xAP in order to agree with the agreement head AGRca (Spec-Head Agreement). Again, this xAP internal syntax is well motivated and justified by a number of phenomena involving determiners in various languages; e.g., Scandinavian “Double Definiteness”. The chapter builds functional projections on top of xAP up to the final-stage nominal projection called xNP (what the author calls a Cinque stage).

Largely based on Leu (2010), Chapter 4 ‘Definite Quantifiers’ (pp. 88-111) discusses German distributive universal quantifier “jeder” (= every) and distributive quantificational determiner “beide” (= both). The author demonstrates that “jeder” and “beide” are morphosyntactically adjectival and argues that they project xAPs. The author then applies the proposed structure of xAP discussed thus far to”jeder” and “beide”. Decomposing jeder into three subparts, i.e., a lexical part je-, a definiteness marker d-, and an agreement marker “–er”, he provides the step-by-step derivation of “jeder”. Based on the scope fact of “beide”, the author introduces another xAP internal movement that he calls Q-movement.

The second part of the book ‘Non-D-Determiners’ begins with Ein-determiners (Chapter 5, pp. 115-137). The author proposes that an indefinite article “ein” always involves xNP internal operator movement, where xAP that contains an operator moves beyond the definite article (‘INV movement’ in his term). The surface realization of the operator is various: it can be covert; it might itself contain complex structure; it (or part of it) might affixate. The INV movement can also be observed in English, a phenomenon called degree fronting as in ‘too good a deal’ (p.119). The analysis with INV movement, i.e., fronting of xAP, is extended to negative determiner “kein” ‘no’, in which an operator and negative morpheme “k-” are preposed beyond “ein”, and further extended to possessive determiners (e.g, “mein” (= my)), in which a silent possessor (an operator) and a possessor morpheme (e.g. “m-” for first person) move beyond the indefinite article. In contrast to German, Swiss German has a variant of possessive (called ADJ variant) that does not involve a movement of the operator, as in (2).

(2) a. INV variant (German)
m-ein (alt-es) Buch
1sg-a (old-AGRca) book
b. ADJ variant (Swiss German)
m-i-s (alt-ä) buäch
1sg-STEM-AGR-ca (old-WK) book
((5.34) and (5.35), respectively, in Leu 2015: 127-128)

Chapter 6 argues the ADJ and INV variants among wh- and s-determiners (pp. 138-168) further extend to wh-determiners and s-determiners analysis of xNP internal movement of xAP, that is, INV movement discussed in Chapter 5 (Since the term “s-determiner” is used without defined, and moreover, used a few times, it is not clear to me what it refers to.). First, the “was für” (= what for) construction is discussed that has been mainly discussed in literature for its discontinuous expressions. Since “what for” is frequently used to ask for a kind, the author introduces SORT. This analysis is consistent with a silent adjectival element in Chapter 2 (e.g., HERE). The behavior of “what for” (and following null adjective SORT) also patterns with the xAP movement such as degree fronting in Chapter 5. The operator, a wh-phrase, and “for” are fronted beyond an indefinite article ein. The author moreover demonstrates the duality of phrases that contain wh-determiners analogous to the INV variant and the ADJ variant in possessives discussed in chapter 5. Whereas German has only the former variety, both varieties are observed in Swiss German. Next, it is shown that the analysis thus far also captures the dual configurations of “welch” (= which) and “solch” (= such).

Genitives and datives, put aside from the discussion on the weak/strong adjectival declension alternation in German in Chapter 3, are the topic of the last chapter before the conclusion. In Chapter 7 ‘Case and Syncretism’ (pp.169-194), in order to explain puzzling behaviors of the nonfeminine oblique ‘kase’ marker -m, the author proposes three allomorphs, that is, “-s, -m, -r”. After isolating case marker exponents and agreement marker exponents based on visible suffixes on the determiner, the syntactic properties of datives and genitives are revealed, and the author conclude that oblique kase marker exponents, “-s, -m,-r”, are in fact categorically distinct from strong adjectival agreement as previous studies contend (e.g., Zwicky 1986). He further claims that datives and genitives are additional projections on the top of the nominal domain, and thus datives and genitives are disguised form of accusatives.


The author extensively discusses various determiner elements, and convincingly demonstrates that the proposed xAP structure and various xNP internal movements are well motivated and well justified. Still, however, some of the analysis sounds more or less descriptive. For instance, the obligatory movement of xAP quantifier “jeder” ‘every’ in Chapter 4 seems to me to be proposed in order to derive the outcome configuration. Although the discussion and analysis are to much extent based on German and Swiss German, empirical data from other Germanic languages and also from non-Germanic languages strongly support his proposal. I believe that the obligatory movement of “jeder” would be also backed up by more empirical data. His analysis in this book induces a number of theoretical consequences and successfully provides an account for puzzles that have been hotly debated in literature. For instance, his proposed analysis captures the strong/weak adjectival agreement in German, putting aside genitives and datives. These oblique markers are also analyzed in detail in Chapter 7, and he reveals the morphosyntactic properties and nature of oblique markers. The proposed architecture of determiners is not limited to account for certain languages (e.g., Germanic languages), but it has a strong implication for the universal architecture of the nominal domain.


Giusti, G. (1997). The categorial status of determiners. In L. Haegeman (Ed.), “The New Comparative Grammar”, pp. 95–123. London: Longman.

Leu, T. (2010). The internal syntax of jeder ‘every’. “Linguistic Variation Yearbook 9”, 153–204.

Roehrs, D. (2009). “Demonstratives and Definite Articles as Nominal Auxiliaries”. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Zwicky, A. (1986). German adjective agreement in GPSG. “Linguistics” 24, 957–990.
Daiho Kitaoka is a PhD student in Linguistics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. His research interests include quantifier floating and the structure of the nominal domain, mainly focusing on Japanese, English, and Algonquian languages.

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ISBN-13: 9780199945252
Pages: 240
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