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Existential and Locative Constructions in the Romance Languages  

Delia Bentley

Existential and locative constructions form an interesting cluster of copular structures in Romance. They are clearly related, and yet there are theoretical reasons to keep them apart. In-depth analysis of the Romance languages lends empirical support to their differentiation. In semantic terms, existentials express propositions about existence or presence in an implicit contextual domain, whereas locatives express propositions about the location of an entity. In terms of information structure, existentials are typically all new or broad focus constructions. Locatives are normally characterized by focus on the location, although this can also be a presupposed topic. Romance existentials are formed with a copula and a postcopular phrase (the pivot). A wide range of variation is found in copula selection, copula-pivot agreement, expletive subjects, the presence and function of an etymologically locative precopular proform, and, finally, the categorial status of the pivot, which is normally a noun phrase, but can also be an adjective (Calabrian, Sicilian). As for Romance locatives, a distinction must be drawn between, on the one hand, a construction with canonical SV order and S-V agreement and, on the other hand, another construction, with VS order and, in some languages, lack of V-S agreement. This latter structure has been named inverse locative. Both existentials and locatives have a nonverbal predicate: the locative phrase in locatives and the postcopular noun or adjectival phrase in existentials. In locatives the predicate selects a thematic argument (i.e., an argument endowed with a thematic role), which serves as the syntactic subject, exception being made for inverse locatives in some languages. Contrastingly, in existentials, there is no thematic argument. In some languages the copula turns to the pivot for agreement, as this is the only overt noun phrase endowed with person and number features (Italian, Friulian, Romanian, etc.). In other languages this non-canonical agreement is not licensed (French, some Calabrian dialects, Brazilian Portuguese, etc.). In others still (Spanish, Sardinian, European Portuguese, Catalan, Gallo-Italian, etc.), it is only admitted with pivot classes that can be defined in terms of specificity. When the copula does not agree with the pivot, an expletive subject form may figure in precopular position. The cross-linguistic variation in copula-pivot agreement has been claimed to depend on language-specific constraints on subjecthood. Highly specific pivots are only admitted in contextualized existentials, which express a proposition about the presence of an individual or an entity in a given and salient context. These existentials are found in all the Romance languages and would seem to defy the semantico-pragmatic constraints on the pivot that are widely known as Definiteness Effects.


The Locative Existential Construction in Chinese  

Yang Gu and Jie Guo

The locative inversion constructions are characterized by a noncanonical word order where a locative phrase is inverted preceding the verb and the thematic subject follows the verb. This phenomenon is found quite common crosslinguistically, though whether “inversion” is the right label for the constructions or not remains controversial. Issues regarding the status of the locative phrase, Case assignment, unaccusativity, verb argument structure, agreement, and the mechanism that triggers this noncanonical word order have been the major concerns in various proposals. The closest constructions that exhibit similar word order found in Chinese are locative existential constructions (LECs). However, the assumption of locative inversion in the constructions requires substantial empirical support. The Chinese LECs depict or present the existence of an entity or an eventuality. As in English and other languages where locative inversion prevails, issues related to the grammatical function of the locative phrase, Case assignment, and types of verbs in LECs draw a lot of attention from researchers in Chinese linguistics. In particular, research on the types of verbs in LECs has important bearing on the possible syntactic derivation of locative existential sentences. The discussions in this article show that the verbs allowed in the constructions vary. Some are intrinsically intransitive postural verbs, and many others are lexical-syntactically derived from ditransitive placement verbs such as fang ‘put’, gua ‘hang’, etc. via decausativization. The result of the derivation yields verbs that show alternation with their ditransitive counterparts. These derived verbs are seemingly similar to the unaccusative member of the causative~unaccusative pairs in English, but different in terms of their argument structure and syntactic behavior. The intransitive and the derived verbs found in the LECs are shown to have the same lexical semantic sense of spatial configuration and can be treated on a par with a template of [y Location HAVE z Theme]. The abstract verb HAVE, meaning existentiality but lacking manner of existence, can be lexicalized by verbs, specifying various manner of existentiality. In other words, the argument structure of the verbs in the constructions is , where the location is realized by a locative phrase, which is a noun phrase in Chinese, base generated in [Spec, vP] in accordance with VP-internal Subject Hypothesis, and the theme by another noun phrase denoting an entity. It is the lexical semantics of these verbs that accounts for not only the general properties of Chinese LECs shared with other languages like English but also the language particular properties such as the word order and the aspect marker obligatorily used in Chinese LECs. Given these particular properties, Chinese LECs are shown not to involve locative inversion.


Argument Realization in Syntax  

Malka Rappaport Hovav

Words are sensitive to syntactic context. Argument realization is the study of the relation between argument-taking words, the syntactic contexts they appear in and the interpretive properties that constrain the relation between them.