Are The Bare Nps Really Bare English Language Essay

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The aim of this investigation is to examine the existence of the functional 'D' layer within the projection of Irish bare noun phrases. In particular it will provide evidence either for or against a 'D' layer projection in bare NP's in Irish, which allows bare nouns in certain constructions. Based on an analysis of distribution and behaviour of bare nouns, the investigation will also draw on knowledge from other influential studies on NPs in languages that vary in their licensing of bare nouns. This investigation will show if bare nouns in Irish project and empty 'D' layer, or if, in fact the bare nouns are actually 'bare'. The theoretical framework of this study is Chomsky's framework of 'Principles and Parameters' (Chomsky, 1981)

The problem and the theoretical background.

The cross-linguistic existence of a 'D' position or layer in the projection of nominal phrases is a matter highly disputed in the literature. A major focus on developing an answer to this has been placed on the consideration of distribution and grammaticality of bare nouns across languages. In many languages, bare nouns are grammatical in various constructions. If a noun phrase is grammatical without a determiner, why, however can it be true that a 'D' layer exists in the functional projection of the noun phrase? Some linguists, for example Trenkic (2004) and Compton (2004), believe that, where 'D' is not realized at PF level, this indicates that the 'D' layer is not projected. This seems, on first appearance to be a logical explanation. Chomsky's Universal Grammar however has been pivotal in guiding the direction of syntactic theory. Universal Grammar (UG) is based on the idea that syntactic properties of a language are developed from a universal 'innate' grammar. UG is 'The system of principles, conditions, and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages' (Chomsky, 1976:29)

This theory strives to locate universal principles within languages, and accounts for differences between languages by positing the existence of parameters, that have different settings that can give alternating surface forms of a certain construction. These parameters are 'set' during child language acquisition of the language. The linguistic input sets the parameters of whatever language the child learns, giving an explanation for language variation.

Within UG, an alternative examination of the structure of NP has emerged and has been central to cross-linguistic analysis of the noun phrase.

Initial NP analysis under UG

The first significant analysis, as well as those following it, under UG have been developed using rules of Chomsky's X-bar theory that states that each phrase must be headed by a component from within the phrase. Under the endocentricity rule of X-bar theory, a noun phrase was composed essentially of a noun component. This initial analysis of NP using X-bar theory rules by Jackendoff (1977) assigned the noun the head of the NP. This projection lacked domination by any functional projection, with any other entities in the NP appearing as specifiers or complements to the head N, including the article, D. It must stressed that as pointed out by Alexiadou et al (2007:54), the notion of X-bar theory at the time of Jackendoff's paper did not have the same meaning associated with the term specifier, as is common now. 'Specifier' was a term used to describe any constituent that appeared structurally to the left of the head. With more recent theoretical developments that apply to X-bar theory, specifiers occupy the position of sister of the phrase formed as a projection of the head, X. Jackendoff fails to recognise the distinctive role of the specifier of the NP, as is discussed below. Complements and specifiers under this analysis do not more or delete as units, and unlike normal constituents, no part can be designated as a head (Jackendoff 1977:104). The fact that specifiers and complements have the same syntactic position and status according to Jackendoff's analysis, would permit more than one entity to occupy the D position.

*[The]1 [some]2 naughty children

However an exemplary feature distinguishing specifiers from adjuncts and complements is that the specifier rule is non recursive making the following construction ungrammatical;

*The these red books (Carnie 2007:172)

This is evidence that there can only be one specifier, an important feature of the position and contrary evidence to Jackendoff's proposal that specifiers and complements do not differ syntactically (1977:37). As well as permitting D to coincide on the same level with possible other specifiers, Jackendoff deems the article (in the D position) to be a disposable entity in the noun phrase, he includes the article in the group set of optional fillers of specifier position in the demonstratives class (Jackendoff 1977:104, cited in Alexiadou et al, 2007:55). The article, however cannot be a totally optional element of a nominal phrase, due to the fact that many NP's are ungrammatical when the noun is left bare, i.e. without a preceding determiner. For example in English;

(1)a There is a man at the door

b*There is man at the door

The (indefinite) article and D position, is therefore needed to grammaticalize certain NP's and is not disposable as is illustrated by Jackendoff (1977:104). This representation of specifiers, in particular, D fails to recognise their additional qualities not exhibited by other fillers of the position. D and its particular functions is shown to be a more significant entity within the noun phrase in later studies (Abney 1987), and furthermore is often an obligatory entity in certain NP constructions.

Further developments in X-bar theory (Chomsky, 1986b) expanded to include functional elements in phrasal projections. Functional categories such as Complementiser phrase (CP) and Inflection phrase (IP) were now assumed to be projected alongside lexical items at phrase level. The significant point to mention about the DP hypothesis is that that projection of functional elements could be extended to noun phrases as they had been successfully applied to clauses. Abney's (1987) dissertation, building on previous work by Cinque (1980) Brame (1982) and Szabolcsi (1983), postulates that the nominal phrase is dominated, not by a noun head, but by a functional head in D, and therefore providing us with a determiner phrase, or DP.

X-bar theory extended: Functional categories within NP

The analysis of noun phrases as containing functional categories has been widely accepted in the literature and is known as the ' DP Hypothesis' and has allowed for further development in syntactic theory, both typological and universal.

A fundamental idea behind the development of the DP hypothesis is the identification of clausal properties within noun phrases, and analysis of such properties in NP as has been studied greatly within VP's in recent syntactic literature. A recent interest in the subject has allowed great development in many different languages, and much has been proven using language specific data, however several seminal works have launched this recent surge of interest;

1. Abney (1987)

Abney's (1987) dissertation was one of the first to introduce Chomsky's functional categories into the nominal domain. The two aims of his investigation were;

(i) To prove the existence of a functional head dominating NP

Abney investigates data from languages that show morphological agreement between noun and possessor. The examples given below from Abney (1987), is from Yup'ik, a language in which nouns show morphological agreement with their possessors

a. angute-t kiputa-a-t

"the men (pl.) bought it"

b. angute-t kuiga-t

"the men's (pl.) river" Abney (1987:28)

In (a), both the verb and the subject are marked with the agreement suffix (-t) indicating case. In (b), both the noun and the possessor are marked for agreement, in this case the same suffix (-t) is used. These examples provide evidence that clauses and nominals behave morphologically in the same way and offer support for the DP hypothesis, that there is a nominal equivalent to the analysis of the clause within the functional category approach to phrase structure. Integration of how nominal phrases and clauses are treated is a significant progression in the development of current syntax under the Principles and Parameters approach.

(ii) To prove the determiner as the head of the previously attested NP

Once providing evidence that there is a functional category above N in the noun phrase, Abney's dissertation aims to investigate the 'filler' of the category. Distribution and appearance of determiners vary across languages. In languages such as English both definite and indefinite articles appear as independent, overt words, and are often assumed to be clitics in this sense;

The chair (definite)

A chair (indefinite)

In other languages, such as Scandinavian languages, the article appears as a suffix, morphologically attached to the noun;

Bok (indefinite)


Boken (definite)

The book Taraldsen (1990:419)

A theory of universal existence of a functional position above the noun requires acknowledgement of what actually fills the position. The variation of determiner distribution across languages, and theories that locate different categories other than predicted determiners in the syntactic position referred to as D, e.g. Proper names (Longobardi, 1994) furthermore complicate the issue of identifying a universal filler of D.

The previous analysis that postulated the noun has the head of the NP is challenged by Abney in his dissertation. Evidence in favour of the previous 'Standard analysis' showed that lexical determiners were in contrastive distribution with possessors, i.e. they can appear in the same position and are ungrammatical if they co-occur.

*The her cat

Under Abney's (1987) 'Det as head analysis', this rule is updated to show that AGR cannot appear in D along with lexical determiners. Abney then provides evidence from Hungarian to show that possessors and determiners can co-occur, and that, in Hungarian they appear where expected to is occupying the D position.

As genitive case is assigned when there is AGR in D, therefore allowing the appearance of possessors. The non-occurence of possessors with lexical determiners is explained. However due to the required constraint mentioned above for the Det-as-head analysis, inclination is towards the 'standard analysis'. Hungarian is a language in which determiners and possessors can co-occur, and where they occur, the determiners appear in D position.

Szablolcsi (1987) as cited by Abney (1987:173) provides Hungarian data in which determiners and possessors co-occur, where the English equivalent is not grammatical;

minden every

ezen/azon this/that

ealamennyi each

"Peter mindket kalapja " "Peter's both hat"

Semelyik neither

Melyik which Szabolsci (1987)

The distributional difference in English is then that only that the agreement constraint introduced by Abney is not applied. This eliminates the previous 'standard analysis' that postulated different NP structures for English and Hungarian.

Further evidence that determiners are in fact the fillers of the projected D position within noun phrase, is that determiners that can 'stand alone'. Abney shows that in previous analysis of these determiners, the determiner is treated much like an adjective;

(8) NP NP

N' DetP N'

AP N Det N Abney (1987:176)


When AP appears outside NP, it cannot be substituted in positions where an NP would yield a grammatical utterance;

(9)(a) She is [cold]AP

(b) *[cold]AP has gone missing

Given the mentioned similarities, it is expected that DetP behave like the AP, however it does not, it behaves like an NP

(10)(a) She wants [that]DetP

(b) [That]DetP has gone missing

(11) (a) She wants [fluffy]NP

(b) [Fluffy]NP has gone missing

Abney's explanation for this is that, the determiner itself 'is a noun phrase' (1987:177), Existence of NP's containing stand alone determiners further support for the Det-as-head analysis, postulating the determiner as the natural filler of D. Abney also argues syntactic status of pronouns, and also status of determiners as functional elements [1] . Abney presents a convincing and thorough argument supporting the theory that determiners do in fact occupy the D position as part of his presentation of the 'DP hypothesis'.

2. Szabolcsi (1987)

Evidence by Szabolcsi supporting the DP hypothesis has already been mentioned above, as cited by Abney (1987). Szabolsci argues extensively in her 1987 dissertation that DP is syntactically parallel to CP. Using data from Hungarian, a nominative/accusative language that shows the same case agreement morphology on nouns and verbs, she shows identical agreement features between two. In the following examples illustrated in Bernstein (2007) the case indicating suffix on the head noun agrees in person and in number, is the same as the suffix indicating the same information in the clausal subject;

(a) Mari-ø vendég-e-ø

(the) Mary-Nom guest-Poss-3Sg

"Mary's guest"

Mari-ø alud-t-ø

Mary-Nom sleep-Past-3Sg

"Mary slept" Bernstein (2007:539)

As is seen in the examples above, both the noun phrase and clause receive nominative case and are morphologically marked as 3rd person singular with the morpheme ø. This parallel subject agreement is further evidence towards postulating a functional category above N, parallel to C in the clause.

As well as morphological similarities that are evident between NP and VP. Syntactic structure and more precisely word order also provides evidence that corresponding features of VP can be found in NP. An example in which such syntactic parallels are observed between NP and VP is in the construction of interrogative VP's and DP's in Greek. Within the interrogative clause, the Wh-element ti moves from final position (in which an echo question is formed) to initial position to form the interrogative;

Ekane ti?

Did-3SG what

'He did what?'

Ti ekane?

What did-3SG

'What did he do?' Horrocks and Stavrou (1987), illustrated in Alexiadou (2007:81)

Corresponding Wh-movement is observed internally in the nominal construction;

To vivlio tinos?

The book who-GEN

'Whose book?'

Tinos to vivlio?

Who-GEN the book?

'Whose book? Horrocks and Stavrou (1987), illustrated in Alexiadou (2007:81)

Corresponding movement between NP and VP in this example again provides evidence in support of the DP-hypothesis. Movement within DP has also been analysed in respect to the DP analysis by Longobardi (1994), which advances us to another seminal paper in regarding development of the DP-hypothesis.

3. Longobardi (1994)

Longobardi provides evidence in support of the DP hypothesis via a theory of noun movement, and head to head movement within the NP. Through an analysis of 'bare' NPs and proper names in particular, Longobardi provides evidence for a functional layer above N within nominal phrases, and that D is the position that accommodates the moved N. Longobardi's example below exemplifies noun movement in Italian;

My house is beautiful

(1)La mia casa è bella

(2)Casa mia è bella

In (1), it is assumed that the determiner la is situated in the D position, whereas in (2), the absence of a determiner element the head noun has moved to the D position. (Longobardi argues that this movement is needed so that the N can be an argument, an issue that will be discussed later.) Postulating the noun in the D position in (2) allows for the noun Casa to be positioned to the left of mia. Evidence that this analysis is correct is provided by the ungrammaticality of the constructions below;

(3) *La casa mia è bella

(4) *Casa la mia è bella Longobardi (1994, 1996) illustrated in Alexiadou (2007:81)

These are ungrammatical as the noun has moved to the left of mia, it is assumed to have moved to D, and therefore the determiner element cannot be provided for. The diagram below shows the movement proposed by Longobardi (1994);

The head to head movement within the NP as shown above can only be explained if another c-commanding head is present, this is assumed to be D within the 'DP hypothesis'.

A more in-depth analysis of N to D movement will be provided at a later stage, but a mention of Longobardi's contribution to emergence of the widely accepted 'DP Hypothesis' is important at this stage.

The basic idea behind the 'DP hypothesis' as explained above, is that NP's contain (at least one) functional category above the head noun. X-bar theory states that noun phrases must contain a noun constituent and the development of the 'DP' hypothesis within the principles and parameters framework is an extension of that rule, incorporating nominal equivalents of functional 'layers' found in clausal structures. The DP hypothesis postulates the below structure as representing NP's.

In this analysis the DP is presumed to be the maximal functional category that is projected by the closed class of determiners, and heads the NP. What was previously referred to as noun phrase or NP is now widely accepted to be 'determiner phrase' or DP. Most commonly the D layer is occupied with determiners, furthermore it has been accepted that articles seem to be the only category tht occupy the head D position, uncontroversially and crosslinguistically. Guisti (1992, 1995) shows occurence of particles such as demonstratives alongside articles, and posits these in specifier positions rather than in head of DP. This revised structure of nominals poses a problem for cases in which nouns appear bare, without an overt determiner and has been answered with more than one theory. The situation of the DP structure in bare nouns and even in determinerless languages must require further explanation. For the question in hand, it is important to look at interpretation noun phrases in those situations. In the next section, the analysis of determinerless and bare noun phrases will be examined.