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The syntax and interpretation of non-canonical argument positions

Elena Elvira Benedicto, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In this work I investigate the syntax of determinerless (D$\rm\sb\phi)$ subjects and the interpretations associated with them. The main focus is on explaining the contrast in syntactic behavior and interpretation between languages of the Catalan type and languages of the English (and Germanic) type. Ultimately, the system proposed will account for the general crosslinguistic variability in the interpretation and syntax of these elements. I develop a system that derives their interpretive properties from a particular combination of (independent) syntactic properties. More concretely, I derive the (exclusively) existential interpretation of D$\rm\sb\phi$ subjects in Catalan, from the syntactic configuration that results from (long) V-movement and the use of Merge (instead of Move) to fill the Spec of the head where V moves. The different crosslinguistic patterns result from the combination of the V-movement properties in any given language and the use of Merge/Move to fill the (relevant) Spec: English, for instance, has short V-movement and Move; some Germanic languages (e.g. Icelandic) have long V-movement and Move. This work, thus, is part of a research program that investigates how syntax and semantics interact, in particular, how syntactic configurations limit the range of semantic interpretations crosslinguistically. As part of this approach, I will claim that the interpretation of (subject) arguments is not strictly tied to a particular position, but is dependent on the particular configuration in which the argument appears. In particular I will claim that what is crucial is its relative position with respect to the verb and the operators in the sentence. Thus, a single syntactic position may have different properties across languages depending on the particular configuration in which it appears (which in turn is determined by the specific syntactic properties of the language). Such configuration will, in turn, determine its interpretation in the interpretive component.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Benedicto, Elena Elvira, "The syntax and interpretation of non-canonical argument positions" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9823718.