Against Parameterizing the DP-Hypothesis

Asya Pereltsvaig, Cornell University

Bošković (2005) proposes to divide languages into two types: (i) languages with articles, where noun phrases are DPs, with the A-over-N structure, and Left Branch Extraction (LBE) is not allowed, and (ii) article-less languages, where noun phrases are (bare) NPs, with the N-over-A structure, and LBE is allowed. Within Slavic, Bulgarian illustrates the first type and Russian – the second. In this paper, I use data from these two languages to argue that the division of languages into two syntactic types based on their lexical properties (i.e., presence of overt articles) is incorrect. I claim instead that while there are D‑less constructions, there are no D-less languages (cf. Progovac 1998, Rappaport 2001).

I use new Russian data involving LBE and other types of extraction from nominals to show that (contra Bošković and despite certain morphological similarities) demonstratives and prenominal possessors (described by Babyonyshev 1997) are not As syntactically and thus necessitate projection of functional structure beyond an NP. Furthermore, I use approximative inversion and other tests to show that cardinal numerals are not Ns syntactically (contra Ionin and Matushansky 2004). Thus, I show (contra Bošković) that noun phrases in Russian cannot always be bare NPs with the N-over-A structure.

My next argument comes from data concerning adjectival modifiers. Bošković claims that in article-less languages adjectives are freely ordered (in contrast with languages with articles, where clear ordering restrictions exist; cf. Scott 2002). I use both speaker judgments and corpora data to show that in both (types of) languages adjectives are strictly ordered, once such factors as contrastive interpretation, adjective length, collocations, and adjective’s frequency in the language are controlled for. For example, with the Russian staryj and belyj – of similar length and frequency (Sharoff 2002 lists them as #175 and #177, respectively) – both speaker judgments and corpora searches strongly favor the staryj>belyj ordering, thus indicating that adjective orderings are as strict in Russian as they are in e.g. English. On the widely adopted assumption that adjunction is free and functional projections are strictly ordered through selection (cf. Cinque 1994, 1999), this means that even in article‑less languages like Russian adjectives are hosted by dedicated functional projections and not adjoined to NP (as proposed by Bošković).

Finally, I argue that prenominal adjectives in languages with articles cannot be limited to “light adjectives” (i.e., heads), because e.g. Bulgarian allows phrasal prenominal adjectives (e.g., tipičnata gorda săs deteto žena). Furthermore, I show that these cannot be derived in Bošković’s A‑over-N framework without postulating semantically vacuous functional projections whose sole purpose is to account for the observed word order (cf. Arnaudova 1996).

To conclude, I show that differences between languages with and without articles do not run as deep as Bošković claims they do. Instead, I propose a uniform syntactic structure for both types of languages, where the DP can be filled by overt material, by phonologically-null material, or absent altogether (depending on the type of nominal) and adjectives are merged either as heads or as Specs of dedicated functional projections.