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The syntactic roots of semantic partition

Molly Diesing, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation investigates some points of the interaction of syntax and semantics in the framework of generative grammar. The possible interpretations of indefinite noun phrases are examined within the Kamp/Heim framework, and the representations of these interpretations are related to the syntactic representations by means of an intermediary level of Logical Form, as posited in the government-binding theory of syntax. The first three chapters investigate the relationship between syntactic representations and noun phrase interpretations through the workings of a simple procedure which derives logical representations by dividing the syntactic tree into two parts, which correspond to two parts of the logical representations (the Restrictive Clause and the Nuclear Scope), focusing initially on the interpretation of bare plural subjects. In Chapter 3, an extension of this account to other types of indefinite noun phrases shows that indefinites are found to have three types of interpretations (contrary to the original Kamp/Heim theory, which treats indefinites uniformly) which can be distinguished by whether or not they have quantificational force, and whether or not they undergo the syntactic rule of quantifier raising. Chapter 4 investigates the relationship between the interpretation of a "picture" noun phrase objects, and the possibility of extraction out of the noun phrase. Extraction is found to depend upon the availability of a non-quantificational, or cardinal, interpretation of the noun phrase. The availability of this interpretation itself depends on a number of factors, including the type of noun phrase, and also the verb which takes the noun phrase as its object. This interaction of semantic interpretation with syntactic movement leads to a re-examination of the so-called "island constraints." A representational constraint on extraction from noun phrases which allows both the S-structure and LF levels of syntactic representation to be taken into account is proposed.

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Recommended Citation

Diesing, Molly, "The syntactic roots of semantic partition" (1990). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9110124.