No Null Nouns by decree


									No Null Nouns

   Alex Alsina
   April 15, 2010
Aim of the talk

  To argue that apparently headless NPs are
  really headless.
(1)   a. M’agrada més aquest llibre antic amb tapes de
      b. M’agrada més aquest antic amb tapes de cuiro.
      c. M’agrada més aquest amb tapes de cuiro.
      d. M’agrada més aquest antic.
      e. M’agrada més aquest.
Aim of the talk

 Structure of a headed NP:


   D               NP

           N′           AP

               N        A

 aquest    llibre antic
Alternatives to choose from
A. Structure of an NP            B. Structure of an NP
with an empty head:              without a head:
           DP                               DP

           D′                               D′

    D               NP               D           NP

            N′           AP                      AP

                N         A                       A

  aquest    ∅            antic     aquest        antic
Existing work

 The majority position is in favor of alternative A:
 Bosque 1989, Bosque i Gutiérrez-Rexach 2009,
 Brucart 2002, Brucart i Rigau 2002, Wheeler
 1991, among others.
 At this point I can’t cite any work explicitly
 assuming alternative B, although it is the natural
 assumption in analyses within LFG, HPSG, and
 other frameworks that factor grammatical
 information into different structures.
Structure of the talk

 Argument 1: positing empty nouns has the
 effect of making a potentially empirically
 contentful hypothesis unfalsifiable.
 Argument 2: two types of determiners: those
 that may, and those that may not, introduce
 headless NPs.
 Argument 3: prenominal adjectives: not
 possible in headless NPs.
Argument 1

 The empty noun reduces a hypothesis/claim to
 The claim that every XP is the projection of an
 X0 (the projection claim) is a strong claim (a
 falsifiable claim) provided an X0 is always a
 word—a lexical item with a phonological
 representation and a syntactic/semantic
 If we have evidence that some string of words is
 an XP, we predict that it should include a word of
 category X in the right position.
Argument 1

 What counts as a counterexample to this claim?
 Eg: a phrase that behaves in all respects like a
 PP but does not include a preposition.
 Headless NPs are exactly this case.
 They are counterexamples to the projection
 Two responses: (a) keep the claim but make it
 untestable, (b) abandon the claim.
 The majority position has been (a): we allow
 empty Ns so that headless NPs are no longer
 counterexamples to the projection claim.
Argument 1

 In fact, once we allow empty X0s, the projection
 claim is no longer a strong claim: it makes no
 predictions; it just tells us how to represent
 What’s the use of having untestable hypotheses
 (hypotheses that do not lead to testable
 Better to abandon the projection claim: not all
 phrases have a head.
 This spares us from introducing a new
 hypothesis (the empty X0 hypothesis) whose
 function is to make another hypothesis vacuous.
Argument 2: two types of Ds

(2) a. Hem insistit en cada situació (compromesa) (que es
       va presentar).
   b.*Hem insistit en cada (compromesa) (que es va
(3) a. Hem insistit en aquella situació (compromesa) (que
       es va presentar).
   b. Hem insistit en aquella (compromesa) (que es va
Argument 2: two types of Ds

 Weak determiners: cada, sengles, qualque, cert,
 mon, ton, son, llur, tot*, etc.
 Strong determiners: aquest, aquell, quin, quant, cap,
 un, algun, tant, molt, etc.
 If we allow empty nouns, we either cannot account
 for the difference in behavior or we have to restrict
 the null N in the appropriate position in relation to a
 strong determiner.
 The assumption that a strong D can license an
 empty N is ad hoc.
                     * Tot, as in tota reclamació, tot document, not as
                     in tots els llibres, tota l’estona, etc., where it is a
C-structure and f-structure

  An alternative that assumes syntactic information is
  factored into a categorial structure (c-structure) and
  a feature structure (f-structure) as parallel, co-
  present levels of representation.
  A string is grammatical if it satisfies the well-
  formedness conditions on both structures.
  Let’s start with the c-structure: a syntactic tree of the
  usual sort, satisfying
Lexicalism: every X0 dominates a fully formed word—a
  unit satisying morphological integrity and consisting
  at least of a phonological representation—of
  category X.

  The usual inventory of categories: V, N, P, A, D, C,
  VP, NP, DP, etc.
  Functional categories ok, provided they comply with
X-bar Theory:
    X′′    YP X′(′)
    X′    X(′) ZP
Economy of Expression: all c-structure nodes are
  optional and are only used if needed for semantic
  reasons or to satisfy well-formedness conditions.
  (Bresnan 2001)
C-structure of the noun phrase

 Words of category D in Cat.: el/la, cada, sengles,
 qualque, aquest, aquell, quin, cap, molt, etc.
 Spec of NP is reserved for SpecA (specificational
 adjectives): altre, dos, tres, primer, segon, últim,
 seu, nostre, etc.
 D always has an NP as its c-structure complement,
 if it has any complement.
 Spec of DP is reserved for predet. tot/s and adv.
 such as fins i tot, exactament, només, almenys, etc.:
 tots els llibres, només aquelles notes, etc.
Example c-structures


    D           NP

        SpecA        N′

                 N        PP

  aquell altre castell de cartes
Example c-structures
        DP                    DP
           D′                 D′
    D           NP        D        NP
            SpecA                  N′
  aquell        altre              PP

                        aquell de cartes

 However, the principles given so far allow
 headless noun phrases with weak dets:
   cada *(proposta) nova
   cada *(paquet) que arriba
   cada *(estudiant) de doctorat
 They are excluded by well-formedness
 conditions on the f-structure.
 F-structures: formally, attribute-value matrices
 that satisfy a uniqueness condition requiring
 each attribute to have a unique value.

 Every word form has a vocabulary entry that
 specifies its c-structure information and its f-
 structure information.
 In forming the f-structure of a phrase:
   The f-structure of a phrasal category is that of its
   The f-structure of a functional category is that of its
   complement phrase.
 Thus, the f-structure of a DP is the unification of
 the f-structure of the head D and of the N head
 of the complement NP.
Sample vocabulary entries
 aquell:    D   SPEC   [DEM +]
                NOMB   sg
                GÈN    masc

 aquella:   D   SPEC   [DEM +]
                NOMB   sg
                GÈN    fem

 cadira:    N   PRED   ‘cadira’
                NOMB   sg
                GÈN    fem

 calaix:    N   PRED   ‘calaix‘
                NOMB   sg
                GÈN    masc
Sample det-noun sequences

           D′            PRED   ‘calaix‘
                         SPEC   [DEM +]
    D            NP      NOMB   sg
                         GÈN    masc



  aquell        calaix
Sample det-noun sequences

       D′          PRED     ‘cadira‘
                   SPEC     [DEM +]
   D        NP     NOMB     sg
                   GÈN      masc


  aquell cadira
The two types of Ds

  Another condition that f-structures must satisfy:
Completeness: every f-structure with a thematic
 role must have a PRED feature. (Bresnan 2001)
 Words of categories N, V, A generally have a
 PRED feature.
 Dets split into two groups: some don’t have this
 feature (the weak dets) and some have an
 optional [PRED ‘pro’] feature (strong dets).
 See vocabulary entries of a D of each type:
Example Ds of each kind
aquell:   D   SPEC    [DEM +]
              NOMB    sg
              GÈN     masc
              (PRED   ‘pro’)

cada:     D   SPEC    [DISTR +]
              NOMB    sg

això:     D   SPEC    [DEM +]
              NOMB    sg
              GÈN     masc
              PRED    ‘pro’
Nounless DPs of both kinds

   D′        SPEC      [DEM +]
             NOMB      sg
             GÈN       masc
             PRED      ‘pro’



   D′      SPEC     [DISTR +]
           NOMB     sg
                         Ill-formed f-
                         structure: violates
The role of null nouns

 Having empty categories would play no role
 in explaining the contrast between the two
 kinds of determiners.
 We would need some additional principles to
 tell us when the null noun is possible and
 when it is not.
 In this theory, null nouns are excluded by
 Economy of expression and Lexicalism.
Argument 3: prenominal adjectives

  Prenominal adjectives:
     must appear before a noun,
     follow SpecA, if there are any
  Examples: bon, mer/a, mal/a, presumpte/a,
  antic/ga (‘former’), trist/a (‘insufficient’).
(4) a. un bon amic, *un amic bon, *aquest amic sí que
       era bon, *era un bon.
    b. una mera suposició, *una suposició mera, *aquesta
    suposició és mera, *era una mera.
  Strings not allowed by X-bar theory given.
Explaining prenominal As

 Two subtypes of A:
   A [+preN]. Ex: bon, mer, mal, etc.
   A [-preN]. Ex: dolent, bo, policial, etc.
 Many As are unspecified: belong to both
 New c-structure rule (Sadler and Arnold 1994):
  N         A        N
 Postnominal APs are projections of A [-preN].
Structures with prenominal As
         DP                      DP

         D′                       D′

   D          NP         D             NP

              N′               SpecA              N′

              N                                   N

          A        N                       A           N
       [+preN]                          [+preN]

   un bon         amic   els    dos    presumptes culpables
Excluding illicit structures

 Why are *un bon, *la mera illicit DPs?
 [+preN] adjectives must appear in the configuration
 [N A[+preN] N ].
 By Lexicalism, both categories in this structure must
 be words (or dominate words) of the same category.
 Words have phonological representation.
      N                    N                 N
       A             A         N       A         N
    [+preN        [+preN            [+preN
     bon           bon               bon         ∅
What does the null noun do for us?

 If we have a null noun as a vocabulary item, we
 cannot explain these facts. A representation
 such as the following is possible:


              A          N

             bon         ∅
What does the null noun do for us?

 A hypothetical construct such as a null category
 should only be posited if there is clear evidence
 for it, if its presence is crucial for explaining
 some facts.
 There is no evidence for the null noun.
 In addition having a null noun complicates the
 explanation of certain facts considerably.
 It complicates the explanation of the behavior of
 the two classes of determiners.
 And it makes the explanation of preN adjectives
 practically impossible.

 We are much better off without the null noun.

              Thank you

Bosque, Ignacio (1989): Las categorías gramaticales. Relaciones y
   diferencias. Madrid: Síntesis.
Bosque, Ignacio; Gutiérrrez-Rexach, Javier (2009): Fundamentos
   de sintaxis formal. Madrid: Ediciones Akal.
Bresnan, Joan (2001): Lexical-functional syntax. Oxford: Blackwell.
Brucart, Josep M. (2002): «Els determinants». A: Solà, Joan et al.
   (dir.), vol. 2: 1435-1516.
Brucart, Josep M.; Rigau, Gemma (2002): «La quantificació». A:
   Solà, Joan et al. (dir.), vol. 2: 1517-1589.
Sadler, Louisa and Douglas J. Arnold. 1994. Prenominal adjectives
   and the phrasal/lexical distinction. Journal of Linguistics 30:187–
Wheeler, Max W. (1991): «Dels quantitatius i altres elements
   especificadors». Els Marges 43: 25-49.

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