An Interarboreal Analysis of Bulgarian DPs

Steven Franks, Indiana University

This paper addresses the long-standing problems for formal analysis posed by Bulgarian (and Macedonian) Determiner Phrases (DPs); cf., e.g., Scatton (1993), Caink (2000) or Franks and King (2000) for discussion. Specificity is indicated by means of a postpositive article:

(1)a.knigata ‘book-the’
b.xubavoto momiče ‘pretty-the girl’
c.pette interesni knigi ‘five-the interesting books’

I present evidence to show that the article must be a suffix on its host word, rather than a clitic, and consequently argue that all [+N] elements have forms inflected for specificity in their lexical entries.

Whereas the examples in (1) suggest the article appears on the first word of the nominal phrase, I demonstrate that in fact it appears on the highest head. Thus, if an adjective has an intensifier (2a) or a complement (2b), these are ignored:

(2)a.[dosta glupavata] zabeleeka ‘quite stupid-the remark’
b.[vernijat na demokratični idei] prezident ‘faithful-the to democratic ideas president’

I assume a standard X-bar structure in which lexical heads, such as N, are dominated by functional projections (FPs) specifying grammatical information. For Bg, and perhaps universally, the highest such head is a DP, which contains the feature [±specific], inter alia. I further assume, following Abney (1987), that modifiers are heads outside NP. In other words, phrases headed by adjectives and numerals count as FPs. Given a structure as in (3), where there can be any number of FPs, including zero, a [±spec] D then checks specificity feature values against the highest head.

(3)[DPD[±spec] [FP F[±spec] [FP F [NPN …] ]]]

The fact that it is the highest head which must be inflected for specificity follows from the minimalist mechanism of Attract, which checks features by attracting the closest potential checker. This system allows us to treat specificity as inflectional and avoids the kind of lowering analysis proposed e.g. in Franks and King (2000).

A further problem posed by Bg DPs concerns the distribution of the historically “dative” possessive clitic:

(4)a.knigata mi ‘book-the my
b.xubavoto mu momiče ‘pretty-the his girl’
c.pette ti interesni knigi ‘five-the your interesting books’
d.[dosta glupavata im] zabeleeka ‘quite stupid-the their remark’
e.[vernijat ni na demokratični idei] prezident ‘faithful-the our to democratic ideas president’

Descriptively, the clitic attaches to whatever word is inflected for specificity. The problem is how to get the clitic to target this word, since, unlike the article, it is an independent syntactic entity. Following Rudin (1997) and Franks and King (2000), among others, I take clitics to be instantiations of agreement (Agr) features; consequently, the dative clitic can be analyzed as the head of some kind of “indirect object” AgrIOP within DP, presumably right under DP, as follows, for e.g. (4b):

(5)[DP D [+spec] [AgrIOP AgrIO [+3sg.m](=mu) [AP xubavoto [NP momiče]]]]

It would thus appear that the clitic mu lowers to the next head down, which must be [+spec], as proposed argued in Franks and King (2000). To avoid this lowering analysis, however, I develop an “interarboreal” account in the spirit of Bobaljik and Brown (1997). The clitic mu merges directly with xubaboto, and its features are eventually checking against AgrIO by raising (of formal features) instead. The condition on merger of the clitic is therefore that it must merge with a [+spec] head, satisfying the above descriptive generalization. The result of this merger, {xubovo +mu}, then merges with the NP {momiče}, and the result merges first with AgrIO and finally with D. In this way, that fact that the inflectional article and the syntactic clitic both target the same head is accommodated without lowering, and in accordance with the minimalist requirement that each merger extends the tree.


Abney, S. (1987) The English Noun Phrase in its Sentential Aspect. Ph.D. Dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

Bobaljik, J. and Brown, S. (1997) “Interarboreal Operations: Head Movement and the Extension Requirement.” Linguistic Inquiry 28, 345–56.

Caink, A. (2000) “In Favour of a ‘Clitic Cluster’ in the Bulgarian and Macedonian DP.” In M. Dimitroiva-Vulchanova, I. Krapova and L. Hellan, eds. Papers from the Third Conference on Formal Approaches to South Slavic and Balkan Languages, University of Trondheim Working Papers in Linguistics 34.

Franks, S. and King, T. H. (2000) A Handbook of Slavic Clitics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rudin, C. (1997) “AgrO and Bulgarian Pronominal Clitics.” In M. Lindseth and S. Franks, eds. Proceedings of FASL V: The Indiana Meeting, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Slavic Materials.

Scatton, E. (1993) “Bulgarian.” In B. Comrie and G. Corbett, eds. The Slavonic Languages. London: Routledge.