The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Syntax Square 2/12 - Junya Nomura

Speaker: Junya Nomura
Title: Syntax of Associative Plurals and Licensing of Empty Nouns
Date/time: Tuesday, Feb 12th, 1-2p
Location: 32-D461

It’s been claimed by many researchers (Rizzi (1986), Lobeck (1993,1995) among others) that agreements involve licensing of empty elements. Licensing can be done between a verb and a DP or can be DP-internal. In this talk, I would like to propose two claims about associative plurals.

First, following Vassilieva (2005) and Zhang (2008), I will show that associative plurals should be analyzed to contain an empty noun and that what seems to be a head noun is really a modifier. The evidence for this consists of modifier-like morphology of associative plurals and positions of plural marker.

Second, I will provide evidence that the empty noun inside associative plurals must be licensed by agreeing with a plural morphology. In some languages (Japanese, Turkish, Chinese among others), this licensing is done DP-internally, and the claim that the empty noun requires a licensing is difficult to check. However, other languages, for example Kaqchikel and Maltese, adopt licensing by a verb and the claim is falsifiable. I found some evidence in Kaqchikel that the licensing is really necessary. That is, in some constructions, such as First Conjunct Agreement and Agent Focus, a verb cannot agree with an argument in some positions. In these position, associative plurals are not possible, even though ordinary plurals are possible even when there is no plural morphology.