Weak Definites and Bare Singulars: Their Syntactic Peculiarities
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This thesis discusses the syntactic properties of weak definites and bare singulars in locative PP constructions. The realization of these weakly referential phrases (i.e. nominal phrases that do not seem to set up individual discourse referents) is studied in nine European languages. The goal of this study is twofold. First of all, this thesis is aimed at achieving a descriptive overview of the realization of weakly referential phrases. Regarding the realization of these phrases, the empirical facts show that languages do not behave differently in a systematic way on the basis of their geographical location. The second goal of this thesis is to provide a syntactic analysis for weak definites and bare singulars. The syntactic structure of weakly referential phrases is studied using syntactic elements that exist in the nominal domain (diminutives, adjectives, plural morphology). The thesis dicusses their effects on the grammaticality and interpretation of weak definites and bare singulars. The general pattern across languages is that bare singulars do not allow adjectival modification and diminutives. In some cases bare singulars can bear plural morphology, but in those cases the bare nouns lose their weak reading. Weak definites generally allow diminutives, adjectives and plural morphology, but these elements cause the weak definites to lose their weak reading. Following Longobardi (2004), most of these facts can be accounted for in terms of N-to-D movement and expletive articles.