Thursday, May 12, 2005

Suffixes for Proper Nouns

Proper nouns have nominal classifiers that behave like suffixes (except that they don't have "meaning" in the traditional sense). A very well known case is -os in (1):

(1) Carlos > Carl-os

Evidence for that comes from the fact that the diminutive suffix must be between Carl- and -os, as is (2), considering that the diminutive suffix is always inserted before other less controversial nominal classifiers, as the gender marker -a in (3):

(2) Carlitos

(3) casa > cas-a > cas-it-a

There is additional evidence for these especial nominal classifiers, which is less known. For instance, the adjective for Borges is borgiano ~ borgiana (as used by literary critics). This means that the speaker are breaking Borges into Borg-es, and using the suffixes to produce the corresponding adjectives. In fact, *borgesiano is ungrammatical. Interestingly, some critics recommend this last form, because borgiano could be understood as related to Borgia and not only to Borges (which is true). However, the fact that those critics can understand borgiano as related to Borgia, precisely means that they are breaking Borgia as Borg-ia (otherwise, the adjective will be *borgiaiano, which is as ungrammatical as *borgesiano), which indeed confirms that there are nominal classifiers for proper nouns (their recommendation must be discharged as prescriptive, then)

Notice that this happens only if the stress is in the penultimate syllable. When the stress is in the last syllable, the whole word behaves like the base: Cortés > cortesiano, *cortiano----as predicted by standard theories about Spanish gender markers (Harris 1991).

More examples of the nominal classifiers -es and -as:

a. Caracas: Carac-as > Caraqu-eño *Caracas-eño
b. Asturias: Asturi-as > Asturi-ano *Asturias-ano
c. Herodes: Herod-es > Herod-iano * Herodes-iano
d. Aquiles: Aquil-es > Aquil-iano * Aquiles-iano

Some times things get tricky, however. For instance, in Cortázar, the form -ar could be a classifier (as in azúc-ar > azuqu-it-ar). This predicts Cortazítar and cortazariano. This last form is attested (it is the regular adjective used by critics), and the first one seems grammatical to me. However, cortaziano is also used, and Cortazarito is not so bad. Interesting, the same happens with azúcar, which allows azucarcita and azucaroso (although this could be subject to dialectal differences).

Monday, May 09, 2005

Clitic-climbing with "haber que"

The expression "haber que" is, as far I can tell, identical in meaning to "tener que". Both verbs express an obligation and both select an infinitival (they are similar to "have to") . However, "haber que" does not allow clitic climbing:

a. Tenemos que comprarlo
b. Lo tenemos que comprar

a. Hay que comprarlo
b. *Lo hay que comprar

It is worth noting, however, that a quick Google search returns some sentences with clitic climbing with "haber que":

a. Trigo: lo hay que “descubrir” antes de sembrar
b. Todo lo había que intercambiar
c. Además lo había que cargar desde un diskete de arranque
d. Este mes iban bien pero lo había que superar con creces
e. Y al día siguiente se recoge y lo hay que llevar con uno mismo, en un bolsillo, durante un ciclo lunar.

For me the sentences in (3) are bad, very bad, actually. Does everybody share my judgements?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Specificity, clitic-climbing and articles

There is a curious effect with clitic doubling, at least in my dialect (North Peruvian).

Traditionally (Suñer 1988), clitic doubling is associated with a high degree of specificity.

With pronouns is mandatory (in all dialects):

(1) *(Te) vio a ti

With proper nouns, at least for me, depends on the familiarity that I have with the referent--if I know her/him, if I have a close relation with him/her, etc (and even in this case, I must intend to remark this familiarity):

(2) Lo vi a Carlos
[this is grammatical only if I know Carlos and I intend to stress that I know Carlos]

With definite nouns, it is ungrammatical in my dialect:

(3) *Lo vi al estudiante

So, it does not correlate with the famous Differential Object Marking (DOM, that is, the need to use a preposition "a" with +specific and +animate). Actually, in some dialects (3) is fine, and we even find dialects where clitic doubling is fine with objects that cannot receive this preposition:

(4) La vi una moto
[good in Argentinian Spanish]

This confirms that clitic doubling does not correlate with DOM. This means that clitic doubling is licensed by a kind of specificity that is different from the kind of specificity that licenses DOM (whatever that means). For my dialect, it needs more specificity that DOM. For Argentinian Spanish, it needs less.

Interestingly, there is a similar constraint in other aspect of the grammar. Normally (in all of Spanish), articles are not allowed with proper nouns:

(5) *El Juan

However, at least in my dialect, I can use articles if I am VERY familiar with the referent:

(6) El Toño
(7) La Mariella

In fact, the only persons whose name I can use with an article are my brother and my sister, and a couple of cousins I know since I was a child.

What is the significance of this? Do you people share my judgements? Is there any similar restriction in other languages/dialects?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Definitenes Effect with haber-sentences

It is well known that existencial sentences with haber are subject to some form of Definiteness Effect DE--as English existentials are (Milsark 1974). But in Spanish this only affects +specific and +animate objects:

(1) *Hay Juan
(2) *Hay el policía de siempre
(3) Hay el problema de siempre

Suñer 1982 noted this, although she tried to use it to deny the DE. I wrote a paper about this and other related issues with haber. Some issues remain, however.

An interesting question is that this restriction is preserved with non-restrictive relative clauses (I know no analysis of this):

(4) * Juan, quien hay en la oficina
(5) * El estudiante, quien hay en la oficina

But restrictive clauses accept this:

(6) El estudiante que hay en la oficina

Some ideas about what is going on?