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Indefinite Articles in the Romance Languages  

Julia Pozas Loyo

A common feature of Romance languages is the existence of indefinite articles. Prototypically, indefinite articles serve to introduce new referents into discourse, which can later be taken up by means of a definite. In Romance languages, the diachronic source of indefinite articles is the unitary cardinal ‘one’ and in most cases the singular indefinite article is formally identical to the numeral: Ast., Sp., Cat., Occ., It., Srd. un/una; Pt. um/uma; Glc. un/unha; Fr. un/une; RaeR. en/ena; Ro. un/o. Despite their formal identity to the unitary cardinal, these forms are considered indefinite articles since they can be used in generic and predicative nominals, the two contexts that characterize the last stages of the grammaticalization of indefinite articles. As for plurals, there are two possible diachronic sources. On one hand, Gallo-Romance languages and some varieties of Italo-Romance (i.e., Tuscan and northern Italian dialects) have grammaticalized a plural marker of indefiniteness on the basis of the preposition de, di (< lat. de) plus the definite article (e.g., Fr. des; It. dei/delle/degli). On the other hand, Ibero-Romance and neighboring languages derive their simple indefinite plural marker from the plural forms of the Latin cardinal (i.e., acc.pl. unos, unas): Pt. uns/umas; Glc. uns/unhas; Ast. unos/unes; Sp. unos/unas; and Cat. uns/unes. Romanian also preserves a plural form derived from Lat. unos, unas: for the nom.acc unii/unele, and gen.dat. unor. More commonly, however, plural indefinites are left bare or are preceded by nişte ‘some’ or câţiva ‘several.’ The use of the plural indefinite article in Romance is less extended than that of its singular counterpart. In fact, except for French where the obligatoriness of the determiner has been linked to the severe loss of morphological number, plural indefinite count nouns can, under certain circumstances, remain bare. Finally, in diachrony, the grammaticalization of plural indefinite articles is behind that of the singular. Synchronically, this is reflected in at least two facts: first, the frequency of use and the degree of obligatoriness of the plural indefinite articles are significantly lower than that of the singular indefinite article; second, plural indefinite articles are normally not accepted in generics.


Focus and Focus Structures in the Romance Languages  

Silvio Cruschina

Focus is key to understanding processes of syntactic and prosodic readjustments in the Romance languages. Since, prosodically, it must be the most prominent constituent in the sentence, focus associates with the nuclear pitch accent, which may be shifted from its default rightmost position when the syntactic position of the focus also changes. The application of specific syntactic operations depends both on the size and on the subtype of focus, although not always unambiguously. Subject inversion characterizes focus structures where the domain of focus covers either the whole sentence (broad-focus) or a single constituent (narrow-focus). Presentational constructions distinctively mark broad focus, avoiding potential ambiguity with an SVO structure where the predicate is the focus and the subject is interpreted as topic. In narrow-focus structures, the focus constituent typically occurs sentence-final (postverbal focalization), but it may also be fronted (focus fronting), depending on the specific interpretation associated with the focus. Semantically, focus indicates the presence of alternatives, and the different interpretations arise from the way the set of alternatives is pragmatically exploited, giving rise to a contextually open set (information focus), to contrast or correction (contrastive or corrective focus), or to surprise or unexpectedness (mirative focus). Whether a subtype of focus may undergo fronting in a Romance language is subject to variation. In most varieties it is indeed possible with contrastive or corrective focus, but it has been shown that focus fronting is also acceptable with noncontrastive focus in several languages, especially with mirative focus. Finally, certain focus-sensitive operators or particles directly interact with the narrow-focus constituent of the sentence and their association with focus has semantic effects on the interpretation of the sentence.


Valency in the Romance Languages  

Steffen Heidinger

The notion of valency describes the property of verbs to open argument positions in a sentence (e.g., the verb eat opens two argument positions, filled in the sentence John ate the cake by the subject John and the direct object the cake). Depending on the number of arguments, a verb is avalent (no argument), monovalent (one argument), bivalent (two arguments), or trivalent (three arguments). In Romance languages, verbs are often labile (i.e., they occur in more than one valency pattern without any formal change on the verb). For example, the (European and Brazilian) Portuguese verb adoecer ‘get sick’/‘make sick’ can be used both as a monovalent and a bivalent verb (O bebê adoeceu ‘The baby got sick’ vs. O tempo frio adoeceu o bebê ‘The cold weather made the baby sick’). However, labile verbs are not equally important in all Romance languages. Taking the causative–anticausative alternation as an example, labile verbs are used more frequently in the encoding of the alternation in Portuguese and Italian than in Catalan and Spanish (the latter languages frequently recur to an encoding with a reflexively marked anticausative verb (e.g., Spanish romperse ‘break’). Romance languages possess various formal means to signal that a given constituent is an argument: word order, flagging the argument (by means of morphological case and, more importantly, prepositional marking), and indexing the argument on the verb (by means of morphological agreement or clitic pronouns). Again, Romance languages show variation with respect to the use of these formal means. For example, prepositional marking is much more frequent than morphological case marking on nouns (the latter being only found in Romanian).


Negation and Polarity in the Romance Languages  

Vincenzo Moscati

Negation in Romance offers a wide array of cross-linguistic variation. For what concerns sentential negation, three main strategies are employed depending on the position of the negative marker with respect to the finite verb: some varieties (e.g., Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese) adopt a preverbal particle, others (e.g., Gallo-Italic varieties) a postverbal one, and some others (e.g., French) a combination of both. Negation can also surface in the left-most clausal positions, generally carrying an additional meaning expressed by emphatic polarity particles. The diverse options available in contemporary varieties stemmed from their common ancestor, Latin, through a sequence of (potentially) cyclical grammatical changes captured by the Jespersen’s cycle. A further dimension of variation concerns negative indefinites (N-words) and their interpretation when combined with negation, resulting in strict and nonstrict negative concord depending on the availability of double negation readings in both pre- and postverbal positions or only postverbally. In addition, the evolution of indefinites from Latin to modern Romance languages constitutes its own quantifier’s cycle. This cycle classifies the continuous diachronic changes that have occurred through the centuries into a sequence of discrete steps, imposing constraints on the transition of indefinites from one stage to the next. Despite the great variability in the ways negation is expressed, its interpretive properties are not fully constrained by superficial variations. Logical scope in particular is not bound to the syntactic position where negation surfaces and inverse scope readings are generally possible.


Nominalizations in the Romance Languages  

Antonio Fábregas and Rafael Marín

The term nominalization refers to a specific type of category-changing morphological operation that produces nouns from other lexical categories, most productively verbs and adjectives. By extension, it is also used to refer to the resulting derived nouns. In Romance languages, nominalization generally involves addition of a suffix to the base (cf. Italian generoso ‘generous’ > generos-ità ‘generosity’), and such suffixes are called nominalizers. However there are also cases of nouns built from other categories without any overt nominalizer (cf. Spanish inútil ‘useless’ > inútil ‘useless person’); descriptively, this process is called conversion, and it is debatable whether it should also be treated as a nominalization or whether another different kind of morphological operation is involved here. Nominalizations can be divided in several classes depending on a variety of semantic and syntactic factors, such as the type of entities that they denote or the ability to introduce arguments. The main nominalization classes are (a) complex event nominalizations, which come from verbs, can combine with some temporal and aspectual modifiers, and have the ability to introduce at least an internal argument; (b) state nominalizations, which denote states associated to the verbs that serve as their bases; (c) participant nominalizations, which denote different types of arguments of the base, such as agents, resulting objects, locations or recipients; and (d) quality nominalizations, coming from adjectives and more restrictively from verbs, which denote a set of properties related to their base. Different classes of predicates select for different nominalization types, and there is a debate surrounding which tests capture in a more complete way the nuances of this taxonomy. Nominalizers impose different types of restrictions to their bases: aspectual restrictions (individual-level vs. stage-level, (a) telicity, dynamicity, etc.), argument structure restrictions (agent vs. nonagent, different types of internal arguments), morphological restrictions (for instance, selecting only verbs that belong to a particular conjugation class), and finally conceptual restrictions (for instance, showing a strong preference for bases belonging to a particular conceptual domain). In Romance languages, nominalizations sometimes alternate with other word classes, most significantly infinitives (see article on “Infinitival Clauses in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia). Infinitival constructions in Romance can display a mixture of verbal and nominal properties, or be totally recategorized as nouns, and in both cases they can compete with prototypical nominalizations. Less generally, participles (see article on “Participial Relative Clauses” in this encyclopedia), gerunds and supines can also display nominalization properties in some Romance varieties.


Secondary Predication in the Romance Languages  

Steffen Heidinger

A secondary predicate is a nonverbal predicate which is typically optional and which shares its argument with the sentence’s main verb (e.g., cansada ‘tired’ in Portuguese Ela chega cansada ‘She arrives tired’). A basic distinction within the class of adjunct secondary predicates is that between depictives and resultatives. Depictives, such as cansada in the Portuguese example, describe the state of an argument during the event denoted by the verb. Typically, Romance depictives morphologically agree with their argument in gender and number (as in the case of cansada). Resultatives, such as flat in John hammered the metal flat, describe the state of an argument which results from the event denoted by the verb. Resultatives come in different types, and the strong resultatives, such as flat in the English example, are missing in Romance languages. Although strong resultatives are missing, Romance languages possess other constructions which express a sense of resultativity: spurious resultatives, where the verb and the resultative predicate are linked because the manner of carrying out the action denoted by the verb leads to a particular resultant state (e.g., Italian Mia figlia ha cucito la gonna troppo stretta ‘My daughter sewed the skirt too tight’), and to a much lesser extent weak resultatives, where the meaning of the verb and the meaning of the resultative predicate are related (the resultative predicate specifies a state that is already contained in the verb’s meaning, e.g., French Marie s’est teint les cheveux noirs ‘Marie dyed her hair black’). In Romance languages the distinction between participant-oriented secondary predicates and event-oriented adjectival adverbs is not always clear. On the formal side, the distinction is blurred when (a) adjectival adverbs exhibit morphological agreement (despite their event orientation) or (b) secondary predicates do not agree with the argument they predicate over. On the semantic side, one and the same string may be open to interpretation as a secondary predicate or as an adjectival adverb (e.g., Spanish Pedro gritó colérico ‘Pedro screamed furious/furiously’).


Tense and Aspect in Mandarin Chinese  

Jiun-Shiung Wu

Chinese has been known to be a language without grammaticalized tense. However, this statement does not mean that native speakers of Chinese cannot tell the temporal location of a Chinese sentence. In addition to temporal phrases, which often are considered to identify the temporal location of a Chinese sentence, the aspectual value of a sentence, either situation aspect or viewpoint aspect, plays a significant role in this issue. Basically, a telic event receives a past interpretation unless explicitly specified otherwise whereas an atelic event gets a present reading until overridden. In addition, there is a possibility, based on examples where the past has an effect on the whole discourse in Chinese instead of single sentences, that tense is a discourse-level feature in Chinese. On the other hand, Chinese has a rich aspectual system, including four aspect markers: perfective le, experiential guò, durative zhe, and progressive zài. The former two are perfective markers and the latter are imperfective markers. Perfective le interacts with eventualities of different situation types to yield different readings. Going with an accomplishment, perfective le receives a completive reading or terminative reading. Presenting an achievement, perfective le gets a completive reading. Perfective le plus an activity forms an incomplete sentence. Together with a state, perfective le induces an inchoative reading. Most of the theories that explain the diverse readings of perfective le resort to the obvious, differentiating point in the temporal schema of a situation: either the (natural) final endpoint or the initial point. Experiential guò has several semantic properties, including at least one occurrence, a class meaning, discontinuity, compatibility only with recurrable situations, and temporal independence. There are two major accounts for the semantics of experiential guò: the temporal quantification account and the terminability as the sole inherent feature account. For the former, experiential guò is considered a temporal quantifier and all the properties follow from the semantic properties of a quantifier. For the latter, terminability is argued to be the sole inherent semantic property for experiential guò and all the properties are derived from discontinuity. The semantics of the two imperfective makers are less complicated. It is generally accepted that progressive zài presents an unbounded, ongoing event but that durative zhe introduces a resultative state. One possible further semantic distinction between progressive zài and durative zhe is that the former has an instant reading whereas the latter has an interval reading. Moreover, the rhetorical function of durative zhe needs to be considered so that a satisfactory explanation for the V1 zhe V2 construction can be achieved.



Ariel Cohen

Generics are sentences such as Birds fly, which express generalizations. They are prevalent in speech, and as far as is known, no human language lacks generics. Yet, it is very far from clear what they mean. After all, not all birds fly—penguins don’t! There are two general views about the meaning of generics in the literature, and each view encompasses many specific theories. According to the inductivist view, a generic states that a sufficient number of individuals satisfy a certain property—in the example above, it says that sufficiently many birds fly. This view faces the complicated problem of spelling out exactly how many is “sufficiently many” in a way that correctly captures the intuitive truth conditions of generics. An alternative, the rules and regulations view, despairs from this project and proposes instead that generics directly express rules in the world. Rules are taken to be abstract objects, which are not related to the properties of specific individuals. This view faces the difficult problem of explaining how people come to know of such rules when judging the truth of falsity of generics, and accounting for the strong intuition that a sentence such as Birds fly talks about birds, not abstract objects. What seems to be beyond dispute is that generics, even if they do not express rules, are lawlike: they state non-accidental generalizations. Many scholars have taken this fact to indicate that generics are parametric on possible worlds: they refer to worlds other than the actual world. This, again, raises the problem of how people come to know about what happens in these other worlds. However, a rigorous application of standard tests for intensionality shows that generics are not, in fact, parametric on possible worlds, but only on time. This unusual property may explain much of the mystery surrounding generics. Another mysterious property of generics is that although there is no language without them, there is no linguistic construction that is devoted to the expression of genericity. Rather, generics can be expressed in a variety of ways, each of which can also express nongenerics. Yet, each manifestation of generics differs subtly (or sometimes not so subtly) in its meaning from the others. Even when these and other puzzles of genericity are solved, one mystery would remain: Why are generics, which are so easy to produce and understand in conversation, so difficult to analyze?


Partitive Articles in the Romance Languages  

Anne Carlier and Béatrice Lamiroy

Partitive articles raise several research questions. First, whereas a vast majority of the world’s languages do not have articles at all, and only some have a definite article as well as an indefinite article for singular count nouns, why did some Romance languages develop an article for indefinite plural nouns (Fr des hommes art.indf.m.pl man:pl ‘men’) and singular mass or abstract nouns (It del vino art.indf.m.sg wine ‘wine’, Fr du bonheur art.indf.m.sg happiness ‘happiness’)? Secondly, unlike the definite article and the indefinite singular article, whose source is already a determiner (or pronoun), that is, the distal demonstrative and the unity numeral respectively, the partitive article derives from a preposition contracted with the definite article. How did the Latin preposition de grammaticalize into an article? And why was the grammaticalization process completed in French, but not in Italian? Thirdly, given that the source of the partitive article was available for all Romance languages, since some form of partitive construction was already attested in Late Latin, why did the process not take place in Rumanian and the Ibero-Romance languages?


Cognitive Semantics in the Romance Languages  

Ulrich Detges

Cognitive semantics (CS) is an approach to the study of linguistic meaning. It is based on the assumption that the human linguistic capacity is part of our cognitive abilities, and that language in general and meaning in particular can therefore be better understood by taking into account the cognitive mechanisms that control the conceptual and perceptual processing of extra-linguistic reality. Issues central to CS are (a) the notion of prototype and its role in the description of language, (b) the nature of linguistic meaning, and (c) the functioning of different types of semantic relations. The question concerning the nature of meaning is an issue that is particularly controversial between CS on the one hand and structuralist and generative approaches on the other hand: is linguistic meaning conceptual, that is, part of our encyclopedic knowledge (as is claimed by CS), or is it autonomous, that is, based on abstract and language-specific features? According to CS, the most important types of semantic relations are metaphor, metonymy, and different kinds of taxonomic relations, which, in turn, can be further broken down into more basic associative relations such as similarity, contiguity, and contrast. These play a central role not only in polysemy and word formation, that is, in the lexicon, but also in the grammar.