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Luis López. 2012. Indefinite objects: Scrambling, choice functions, and differential marking. In the series Linguistic Inquiry Monographs 63. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Pp. xi + 184. US$30.00 (softcover).

The monograph under review introduces a new approach to the study of indefinite noun phrases at the syntax–semantics interface. In the Preface, the author outlines the purpose of his book—to provide a synthesis of three different approaches to the study of the polyvalent behaviour of indefinite objects. According to the first approach (Diesing 1992) a syntactic configuration maps onto a semantic configuration. In the second, the Differential Object Marking (DOM) approach, there is a link between certain morphemes (e.g., the particle a in Spanish) and a specific interpretation. The third (and purely semantic) approach uses choice functions to account for the wide scope readings of indefinite nouns. The synthesis put forth in this monograph serves as a basis for a new proposal that can be formulated as: “DOM and wide scope of indefinites entail scrambling” (p. x). A wide range of data from a variety of mainly Indo-European languages is drawn upon. The author also claims that a major contribution of this work consists in his developing a “more nuanced view of the syntax–semantics interface” (p. x) by arguing, contra Diesing (1992), that “there is no rigid ‘syntactic position–semantic interpretation’ mapping” (p. x).

In chapter 1, “Introduction: Remarks on the grammar of indefinite objects”, the author introduces some data from English and Spanish and shows that: (a) Spanish objects marked with what he calls “accusative A” (p. 1) can (but do not have to) be specific, while unmarked objects cannot be; (b) the accusative particle a also has the property of widening scope; and, (c) if the noun in the object position appears with a strong quantifier (preceded by the particle a without which the structure would be ungrammatical), wide scope is then disallowed. Next, Diesing’s (1992) approach is discussed, according to which weak indefinites must appear within the VP at LF, while strong ones are quantifiers that scramble out of VP into TP. Within this configuration, predicate-internal (or in-situ) indefinites are mapped onto a nuclear scope and are interpreted as nonspecific, whereas scrambled indefinites are mapped onto a restrictive clause and are interpreted as specific or generic. Next, the author tackles the question of the modes of semantic composition that may affect indefinites and argues that the syntactic position of indefinites is crucial. He then introduces the proposal that indefinite objects which stay in-situ can only be composed by the process [End Page 273] known as Restrict, whereas the scrambled indefinites (that are not to be identified with quantifier raising) can only be interpreted by choice functions.

The rest of chapter 1 is dedicated to the discussion of different instances of DOM in Spanish and Maori showing that: (a) specific readings of marked objects are optional; (b) marked objects are incompatible with existential and possessor predicates; and (c) the scale approach to DOM (Aissen 2003, among others) cannot account for the phenomena mentioned above or the obligatoriness of the “accusative A” in small clauses, clause union, and object control.

In chapter 2, “Scrambling and differential object marking”, it is argued that indefinite objects are characterized by a special syntax and that DOM morphology realizes a particular syntactic configuration. The author argues that indefinite objects marked with accusative A in Spanish are short-scrambled to an intermediate position between the initial Merge position of the IO and that of the EA (external argument) and can be merged as a KP. Meanwhile, unmarked DPs are smaller nominal phrases (i.e., smaller than KP) whose highest functional head incorporates into V, which in turn incorporates into v so that the case requirement of these in-situ nominals is satisfied. KP is probed by v, raises to its specifier and receives ACC case from it. K may be spelled out as accusative A if the nominal associated with this Vocabulary Item has certain requisite features such as animacy, and so on. Finally, the author discusses the question of incorporation and makes several observations that lead him to conclude...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1115
Print ISSN
0008-4131
Pages
pp. 273-275
Launched on MUSE
2014-09-26
Open Access
No
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