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Title: The syntax of nominal expressions in articleless languages: a split DP-analysis of Croatian nouns
Authors: Caruso, Đurñica Željka
Keywords: Indo-European Languages
Balto-Slavic Languages
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Universität Stuttgart
Abstract: The primary goal of this thesis is to investigate the internal structure of nominal expressions in Croatian, which regularly appear without articles, and to provide a syntactic analysis for them. As is well known, languages with articles are said to project a DP. The head of DP is occupied by definite and indefinite articles in DP-languages. Articles have long been regarded as the most prominent instantiation of the Dhead1. Since Croatian does not have definite and indefinite articles, the principal question is whether articleless nominal expressions project a DP on top of NP, and, if so, which elements qualify as possible D-heads. This dissertation consists of three parts: Part I introduces the topic and lays the foundations for the subsequent analysis and discussion of Croatian nominal expressions. Part II critically questions some of the main arguments in favour of an NP-analysis and examines certain syntactic structures and patterns that provide clues to the syntactic make-up of Croatian nominal expressions. Part III provides a syntactic analysis of Croatian nouns in terms of the split DPapproach. In addition to providing a general background, Part I also deals with the ongoing debate on whether Slavic nominal expressions are headed by a noun or a determiner. In order to give an insight into this discussion, a very detailed account of different approaches to the structure of Slavic noun phrases will provide the reader with a good overview and help to identify the highly problematic issues raised by this discussion, which are then critically reviewed in Part II. A comparative description of the most evident morphological and syntactic differences between Croatian and English nouns, along with a description of the word order within the noun phrase (focusing on the arrangement of prenominal elements and permitted permutation patterns) will introduce the Croatian noun phrase and pave the way for the discussion of various syntactic phenomena to come. Having set out the theoretical foundations in Part I, Part II provides a critical review of some of the main arguments brought in favour of an NP-analysis and examines certain syntactic structures and patterns in Croatian, such as adjectival premodification in coordinated NP-structures, structural alternations in genitive constructions and the internal structure of argument-supporting nominalizations (ASNs). Their discussion and analysis provide a more in-depth insight into the syntactic structure of Croatian nominal expressions, showing that the NP is not the highest nominal projection. Instead, the nominal structure additionally includes different functional categories on top of NP. Building upon this, Part III provides a syntactic analysis of the Croatian noun phrase in terms of a split DP-approach. Based on the claim that demonstrative pronouns are, in their function, regarded as ‘potential substitutes for definite articles’ (cf. Trenkić 2004, and the references therein), but are, at the same time, considered non-obligatory within the noun phrase, I will examine their optionality-status and deal with the question how and to what extent they contribute to the (in)definite interpretation of noun phrases. Following the idea that the interpretation of nouns is conceptually equal across languages, irrespective of the presence or absence of certain morpho-syntactic markers (in this case articles), and under the assumption that semantic interpretation follows from the underlying syntactic structure, I will adopt a DP-structure for Croatian nouns and subsequently provide a syntactic analysis of Croatian nominal expressions in terms of a split DP. Having reconsidered the syntactic status of all prenominal elements (including their external merge position), I will then turn to a discussion of the prenominal neutral word order. This discussion, in turn, is followed by a brief reanalysis of noun/pronoun asymmetries. Finally, an appropriate syntactic analysis of both possessive and vocative constructions in Croatian in terms of a split DP closes out Part III. The results of my investigation can be summarized as follows. As is well known, Croatian apparently provides no empirical evidence for the existence of the DP (hence posing a challenge to the DP-Hypothesis). Based on this fact, some linguists have refused the DP-analysis altogether and have argued in favour of the simple NP-analysis instead (cf. Zlatić 1997, 1998, Bošković 2005, 2009, 2011). According to these linguists, all prenominal elements are categorially adjectives (phrasal adjuncts). Correspondingly, they occupy either the specifier position of the NP (multiple specifiers) or are adjoined to the NP. The logical consequence of this assumption is that the NP is the highest nominal projection within the nominal complex. The proponents of the universal DP-Hypothesis, however, have argued that noun phrases in articleless languages also project a DP, in spite of the fact that its head D is predominantly empty in most cases (cf. Progovac 1998, Dimitrova-Vulchanova and Giusti 1998, Leko 1999, Rutkowski 2002, Bašić 2004, Pereltsvaig 2007, among others). The only elements that can occupy the D head position are personal pronouns (cf. Progovac 1998). Departing from these controversial initial assumptions about the structure of the noun phrase in Croatian, my discussion and subsequent analysis of some of the most influential arguments provided in favour of the NP-analysis, along with the analysis of prenominal adjectival modification, possessive constructions and argument-supporting nominalizations has yielded different results. In contrast to the claim that the noun phrase in SerBoCroatian is headed by N, my discussion of each of the relevant headedness criteria (applied by Zlatić 1998) has allowed me to arrive at the conclusion that determiners carry phifeatures and display head properties as well and that nouns are not necessarily the sole candidates that qualify as potential heads of nominal expressions. Determiners not only impose very tight restrictions with respect to the number specification on their associated complements, but they also c-select and casemark their complements. The fact that they c-select their complements goes against the claim concerning their phrasal status. Possessive adjectives, for instance, behave differently from their English counterparts, because possessive suffixes in Croatian do not attach to XPs. In addition, their binding properties, as already shown by Bašić (2004) and Zlatić (1997), offer further support for their non-XP-status. On top of all this, in argument-supporting nominalizations they act as nominal subjects, are theta-marked by the head noun and contribute to the definiteness of the entire noun phrase. In addition to being heads, determiners are, in many cases, obligatory elements within the noun phrase. As for the adjectival nature of prenominal elements, their different morphological and syntactic behaviour indicates that determiners and adjectives are two distinct categories. Determiners cannot be syntactically treated in the same manner as adjectives. The discussion of adjectival premodification in coordinated noun phrases, however, has shown that both determiners and adjectives behave in a similar manner in modifying each of the nouns within coordinated NP-constructions. Apart from the displayed agreement with only the first element in a coordinated construction, which basically shows that coordinated NPs cannot be regarded as a single plural constituent, adjectival premodification also shows that neither determiners nor adjectives are part of either of the conjoined NPs. Instead, they must be NP-external. This, in turn, implies that NP cannot be treated as the highest maximal projection within the nominal complex. This is further supported by constructions involving transitive deverbal nouns, in which nominal subjects regularly surface as possessive adjectives (being consistently case-marked and assigned different thematic roles). Neither the complexity of argument-supporting nominalizations nor the syntactic behaviour of possessive adjectives in such constructions can be explained by the simple NP-analysis. The results of my discussion imply that the syntactic analysis of Croatian nouns has to be approached in a different way. Following the idea that semantic interpretation results from the underlying syntactic structure, I adopted the split DP-analysis for Croatian noun phrase. The splitting of the nominal left periphery into various functional projections, such as DefP, FocP or TopP, allows us to explain various syntactic phenomena within the Croatian noun phrase. Within the split DP-approach, definite and indefinite articles in DP-languages (as markers of (in)definiteness) occupy the functional projection DefP. By analogy, the overt morphological markers of (in)definiteness in Croatian, such as the numeral jedan ‘one’, definite adjectival inflectional endings or possessive (pro)nouns, also occupy the head position of DefP. The numeral jedan ‘one’, for instance, is primarily used to indicate indefiniteness of its nominal referent (because the lexical item jedan ‘one’ regularly accompanies plural nouns). Conceiving of the noun phrase as being subdivided into thematic, inflectional and determination areas posed the questions of where and in which order prenominal elements are externally merged within the Croatian noun phrase. My discussion of this issue allowed me to conclude that they are base-generated in the inflectional and/or theta-domain of the noun (in line with Ihsane & Puskás 2001), moving upwards to the nominal left periphery in order to check relevant features, such as definiteness, focus or specificity. Prenominal possessives, which function as nominal subjects within argument-supporting nominalizations, are externaly merged in the thematic domain of the noun. All other elements are basegenerated in the inflectional domain, with the quantifier phrase appearing in the highest position in the inflectional domain, directly below the lowest functional projection of the determination area, Def0. The numeral jedan ‘one’ has been regarded as a pre-determiner by some authors (cf. Silić 1992). According to my analysis, which has shown that the lexical item jedan ‘one’ functions as the indefiniteness marker, jedan ‘one’ is merged directly in the nominal left periphery (Def0). This also explains why it precedes all other determiners, having been rightly considered as a pre-determiner. As far as possessive constructions are concerned, the nominal subject within the ASN, which regularly surfaces as the possessive adjective, is c-selected and theta-marked by the head noun. After having been theta-marked by the head noun in the nP-shell, the nominal argument internally merges with the possessive suffix in Poss0 (inflectional domain), moving farther up to Def0 (the left periphery), where it checks its definiteness feature. Possessive suffixes have been claimed to be strong definiteness markers in Croatian (cf. Kuna 2003). That possessive elements occupy Def0 in Croatian is endorsed by the definite adjectival inflection. When possessive adjectives coincide with descriptive adjectives, the latter have to be marked definite (with the inflectional suffix -i). Here again, a parallel can be drawn between DP-languages and Croatian. While definite and indefinite articles occupy Def0 in DP-languages, triggering inflection on the succeeding adjectival modifiers (e.g. German), the same effect can be observed in constructions involving possessive elements in Croatian. A brief discussion of vocative structures has revealed why the cooccurence of demonstrative pronouns and nouns marked for vocative case is ruled out in Croatian. Since both are endowed with a strong interpretable deictic feature, they compete for the same syntactic position (here Top0). All in all, the split-DP approach to the analysis of Croatian nouns has allowed me to account for a number of different syntactic phenomena, many of which cannot be explained neither by the NP-analysis nor by the DP-analyses of Slavic noun phrases, which have been suggested and discussed in the literature so far.
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