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The syntax of Greek polydefinites

Velegrakis, N.; (2011) The syntax of Greek polydefinites. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The thesis is concerned with the phenomenon of polydefiniteness in Greek. The term polydefinite refers to instances of adjectival modification in which the same definite determiner is multiply realized (to pseftiko to chrisso to roloi 'the fake golden watch'). Polydefinites present free word order variation. It is argued that the construction should be syntactically analyzed on a par with close appositive DPs. Both close appositives and polydefinites are associated with a structure of mutual adjunction, in which the top node inherits non-conflicting properties of both its daughters. The word-order freedom of the construction follows naturally from this proposal, without having recourse to unmotivated syntactic movement. A new interpretive mechanism is proposed, under the name R(eferential)-index mechanism, to capture the semantic effects of the construction (such as the obligatory restrictive reading). I compare my syntactic analysis to LCA-based competitors and argue that my account is superior in a number of respects. Turning to the interpretation of polydefinites, it is argued that the structure assigned to the construction reflects the empirical fact that polydefinites present weak markedness effects. I also discuss the interpretive properties of the R-index mechanism. This proposal allows a natural characterization of the distinction between internal and external modification. This dichotomy is then shown to be instrumental in capturing syntactic and interpretive constraints on determiner spreading. Furthermore, I investigate what happens in Greek indefinites (ena pseftiko chrisso roloi 'a fake golden watch'), which present the same word order variation as polydefinites, but without indefinite determiner spreading. It is shown that analyzing Greek indefinites on a par with Romance indefinites (e.g. French, Spanish) is unwise, because of differences in ordering possibilities and the obligatory restrictiveness associated with Greek post-nominal adjectives. I suggest instead that Greek indefinites with post-nominal adjectives should be analyzed similarly to Greek polydefinites. Following a suggestion in the literature, I argue that the indefinite ena is in fact a quantifier and that the Greek indefinite determiner is phonologically null. On this view, Greek indefinites may exhibit hidden determiner spreading. A tempting correlation that has been suggested in literature is between the Greek polydefinite and the Modern Persian Ezafe constructions. It is explained that these constructions cannot be analyzed similarly to each other due to major syntactic, semantic and configurational differences. They do not constitute therefore, the two sides of the same coin, since their nature is rather different.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The syntax of Greek polydefinites
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1302548
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