Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ad Sensum Agreement and Distributive Readings

Spanish, as well as other Romances languages (like Rumanian), exhibits an apparently optional agreement in number between subject and verb when the subject is headed by a collective noun:

(1) Un grupo de niños cantó en el concierto
(2) Un grupo de niños cantaron en el concierto

This situation is restricted to this type of nouns, and only happens if the collective noun is in singular. If the noun is in plural, the agreement is mandatory:

(3) Dos grupos de niños cantaron en el concierto

It is interesting that, as has been observed, when the singular collective noun triggers plural in the verb, a distributive reading is forced:

(4) Un equipo de nadadores recibieron una medalla
(5) Un equipo de nadadores recibió una medalla

So, (4) means that each of the members of a swimming team received a medal, whereas (5) means that there was only one medal for the whole team. Notice further that if the prepositional phrase (with a plural noun) is not present, the disagreement is not possible:

(6) * Un equipo ganaron una medalla

This means that this prepositional phrase (and the plural noun) is the trigger for the distributive reading. It is tempting to conclude that it is responsible for the agreement too. However, and this is an even more interesting data (although less known), some time others phrases can trigger the distributive reading too:

(7) Pasan uno a uno el convoy de la guerra

In (7), the phrase uno a uno (‘one by one’) triggers a distributive reading over el convoy de la guerra (‘war convoy’), as expected, the verb is in plural; however, convoy is singular, and there is no prepositional phrase with plural noun.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Free relatives with null head

Spanish has a type of free relatives (that is, relative clauses without antecedent) that clearly shows that these structures should be analyzed as containing a null head:

(1) Compró el _ que le recomendaste
(2) Trajo la _ que le pediste

In these cases, the relative particle (que ‘that’) has a determiner. Notice that the head can be reconstructed:

(3) Compró el auto que le recomendaste
(4) Trajo la carta que le pediste

In addition, it is possible to have other nominal constructions with a null head. In these cases, the determiner also must be present:

(5) El _ invisible

Even the ‘neutral’ determiner lo can be used in free relatives:

(6) Dile lo _ que quieras

This is the same determiner that we use in the so called “nominal adjectives” (which are used to express an abstract concept):

(7) Lo _ invisible

This suggests that, contrary to some proposals that conceive free relatives as bare CPs, in these constructions we have a structure like (8), that is, with a null head:

(8) [DP DET [NP __ [CP que…. ] ] ]