CUNY Syntax Supper: Neil Myler (NYU)

APR 01, 2014 | 6:30 PM TO 8:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




April 01, 2014: 6:30 PM-8:00 PM




Predicative Possession and the Theory of Argument Structure
Predicative possession constructions show a bewildering amount of surface variation in their syntax cross-linguistically, which at first sight is hard to reconcile with the idea that there is a constrained relationship between semantics and syntax in the domain of argument structure. In this talk, I will argue that predicative possession can be assimilated into a constrained theory of argument structure that makes room for certain basic insights. These insights, which can be encoded in a variety of different frameworks, are:
a. Possession relations found in HAVE and BE sentences are fundamentally a relationship between two DPs - that is, these relations are not contributed by a verb root, but are rather associated with DP-internal functional heads.
b. Because of this, in order to form a possession sentence (thereby linking a possession relation to tense, clause type, etc.), a “dummy verb” (a copula) must be brought in.
c. I. Natural Language allows a number of different ways of bringing in such a verb, which has the consequence that possession constructions can vary in the place in the structure where the possessor is introduced.
c. II. The different ways of building possession sentences entailed by (I) could have somewhat different (albeit overlapping) meanings, depending on the semantic contributions of the pieces that make them up.
I will concentrate on motivating the claims under (c), giving two existence proofs (from novel fieldwork on two closely-related Quechua dialects) that these claims must be embraced.