The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 12/1 - Snejana Iovtcheva

Speaker: Snejana Iovtcheva (MIT)
Title: Distinguishing ‘non-core’ external possessors from possessor raising in Bulgarian
Date: Tuesday, December 1st
Time: 10:00am-11:00am
Place: 32-D461

Bulgarian has several different ways to convey possessive relation between two nominal phrases: the possessor can be expressed (i) with a DP-internal adjectival possessive pronominal as in (1), (ii) with a Dative clitic as in (2), and (iii) with a na-marked full nominal expression as in (3):

(1) (Az) xaresvam [DP negov-a-(ta) nov-a naučn-a statij-a]
I like.1SG his -SGf-the new-SGf scientific.SGf article.SGf
‘I like his new scientific article’

(2) (Az) xaresvam [DP nov-a-*(ta) mu naučn-a statij-a]
I like.1SG new-SGf-the he.DAT scientific.SGf articleSGf.
‘I like his new scientific article’

(3) (Az) xaresvam [DP nov-a-*(ta) naučn-a statij-a na professor-a]
I like.1SG new-SGf-the scientific.SGf article.SGf of professor.SGm-the
‘I like the professor’s new scientific article’

The main distinction between the adjectival possessive pronominals and the clitic possessor is that the clitic possessors can engage in external possessive structures, whereas adjectival possessors are locally fixed to their head-nouns and cannot appear outside the DP (5):

(4) (Az) mu xaresvam [DP nov-a-*(ta) naučn-a statij-a]
I he.DAT like.1SG new-SGf-the scientific.SGf articleSGf.
‘I like his new scientific article’

(5) *(Az) neg-ov-a xaresvam [DP nov-a-(ta) naučn-a statij-a]

The current paper concentrates on the external datival possessors (of the type in (4)) with the aim to distinguish between raised possessors (syntactic movement) and clausal base-generated possessors. That there is a need for this distinction has been already pointed out in a paper by Cinque and Krapova (2009). Their claim, however, is based on the valency frame of the verb and is limited to externally-generated inalienable body part relations. In a first step, the contribution of the current paper is to enlarge the empirical data to include well-accepted external alienable possession and to offer diagnostics, such as (i) possibility to doubly mark the possessor, (ii) possessive relation to indefinite DPs, and (iii) possessive relation to DPs within PPs. As it is shown, the novel data are able to sharpen the contrast between both structures and capture the intuitions of native speakers, thus allowing for informed investigation. With this background, the paper then proceeds to advance a claim that externally-generated possessors arise not due to the verb type and its ability to assign secondary theta roles, but due to the pragmatic context and the degree of ‘affectedness’ in the sense of Bar-Asher Siegel and Boneh (2015)’s ‘Affected Datives’. The current paper proposes that while Bulgarian can independently raise possessor clitic out of the DP into the clausal clitic domain, when ‘affectedness’ is given in the context, functional heads of Pylkkanen’s (2002, 2008) ‘high applicatives’, produce possessive readings that are contextually added to the entire proposition. These applicative (dative) arguments are not only different from ‘core’ dative arguments of verbs (as in give, put, etc.) but are also different from ‘core’ possessive arguments that start their syntactic live within the DP. Clausal idioms with external possessors that lack DP-internal variants and locality effects that show sensitivity to the pragmatic context further substantiate the current claim.