UIC TiL: Luis López

Join us tomorrow, February 19th, for another installment of UIC Talks in Linguistics.  Our own Luis López will be presenting a talk entitled, “Indefinite objects: Differential object marking, scrambling and choice functions.”

The talk will take place different time than usual, starting at 2pm in 1750 University Hall (601 S. Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607).  Join us there for the talk and as always, light refreshments are provided.

Luis López (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Indefinite objects: Differential object marking, scrambling and choice functions

The polyvalent behavior of indefinites has always been a matter of curiosity among linguists. For instance, in (1), the indefinite object ‘a philosopher’ takes scope outside the conditional, suggesting that the scope of indefinites depends on a semantic operation rather than QR (Reinhart 1997, among many others). In (2) we do not know if Mary is looking for any individual that has the properties of being a secretary and speaking German or whether Mary is looking for a specific individual – known to Mary or to the speaker – who we happen to identify by using these properties:

(1) If Bert invites a philosopher, Lud will be angry.
(2) Mary is looking for a secretary that speaks German.

There have been three traditions that have approached the grammar of indefinites. The scholars working in Differential Object Marking (henceforth DOM, see Bossong 1985, Aissen 2003) have connected a piece of morphology
with a specific interpretation. Other linguists (Diesing 1992 in particular) have linked specificity with scrambling. Finally, Reinhart (1997) and many others have argued that indefinite DPs obtain wide scope by means of choice
functions, implicitly denying any role for syntax. Of particular interest for our purposes are the proposals in Chung and Ladusaw (2004), according to which indefinite nominal phrases may combine by means of Restrict (simple
conjunction) or Satisfy (an operation that turns an indefinite object into a choice function variable.). Restrict leads to narrow scope while Satisfy allows a variety of scopes dependent on where the function variable is existentially closed.

In this paper I synthesize the three traditions. The gist of my proposal is shown as follows:

(3)  [vP EA v [aP Obj.dom a [VP V Obj]]]
Satisfy             Restrict

That is, DOM and wide scope of indefinites entail scrambling. The paper will substantiate this claim using data from Spanish, Hindi-Urdu and Persian (Farsi).

The main theoretical contribution of this research project is that it allows us to develop a more nuanced view of the syntax-semantics interface. Diesing and many others argued that syntactic positions are linked to semantic interpretations. I argue that syntactic configuration limits the range of possible modes of semantic composition, which eventually limits the range of possible semantic representations.


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