- Interfaces and domains of quantification by Javier Gutiérrez-Rexach
Javier Gutiérrez-Rexach is certainly the most important Spanish semanticist. Unfortunately, most of his recent work has circulated in unpublished form, so we must congratulate him on collecting most of this cutting-edge research on Spanish quantification here. The volume inaugurates the series ‘Theoretical developments in Hispanic linguistics’.
The book begins with a chapter, ‘The view from the syntax-semantics interface’, that argues for a syntax-semantics approach to the study of quantification, while offering an overview of the multiple approaches to quantification in modern linguistic theory. G-R’s account, however, understates the contribution of Richard Montague to the analysis of quantification in general and scope ambiguities in particular (the groundbreaking The proper treatment of quantification in ordinary English (Montague 1974) is not mentioned).
Ch. 2, ‘Scope parallelism and the interpretation of ellipsis’, begins with a thorough description of the different scope restrictions on English VP ellipsis and the influential proposal by Fox (2000), who defends the interaction between a parallelism requirement for ellipsis and an economy requirement on semantic derivations: the ellipsis scope generalization (ESG). G-R convincingly argues on the basis of Spanish data that only parallelism is at stake, dismissing economy. On the theoretical side, he simply follows previous attacks on Fox’s ESG as a global economy constraint, and hence as theoretically suspicious and computationally intractable. Then G-R offers clear Spanish counterexamples to Fox’s analysis. The evidence is solid and adds support to previous interpretive approaches to ellipsis (Dalrymple et al. 1996, Hardt 1999, López & Winkler 2000).
In Ch. 3, ‘Indefinites and sentential modality’, G-R develops a solution to the role of subjunctive modality in blocking wide scope of indefinites in relative, but not in complement or adjunct, clauses. Since Spanish relatives with subjunctive mood show that purely semantic solutions are untenable, his proposal involves two syntactic ingredients: the noun-raising analysis of relatives [End Page 219] (Kayne 1994, Bianchi 1999), and his own modal agreement hypothesis, which he formulates as follows: ‘[t]he modal feature [+subj] in a relative clause is attracted by a modal operator and, in turn, it triggers agreement of the modal index of the indefinite’ (66). These two ingredients create a scope island blocking the wide-scope interpretation of any indefinite.
Ch. 4, ‘Existence and beyond: Varieties of having’, offers an innovative analysis of the Spanish verb tener ‘to have’, which relies on a strong parallelism with existential sentences with there. The first ingredient of the analysis is the claim that tener is only a relational predicate connecting two terms and obtains the specific relational content from the object (94), which can be locative or essential. The second key element is the concept of essential property, which serves to explain the definiteness effect found in essential constructions with tener (Pedro tiene un/*el amigo ‘Pedro has a/*the friend’) but lacking in locative ones (Pedro tiene una/la manzana en el bolsillo ‘Pedro has an/the apple in his pocket’).
The proposal is certainly suggestive and relies on mostly unattested data, but it suffers from several shortcomings. First, even though the predicate tener ‘to have’ is bleached, and the burden of the relational content comes from the object, G-R proposes an essential tener and a locative tener(98). Second, he does not consider the simpler alternative of a single lexical item, with pragmatics solving the issue of deciding whether an essential or a locative interpretation is required. Obviously, this alternative cannot offer a semantic solution to the definiteness effect described, but this is hardly a drawback, once we consider the accumulating evidence for a pragmatic solution (McNally 1992, Abbott 1993, Ward & Birner 1995). Finally, the analysis relies on a poorly defined concept: what is an essential property? For instance, it is unclear that ‘it is an essential property of windows to be part of a building’ (96), at least in the same way as having a headache.
In Ch. 5, ‘Free relatives and quantificational variability’, the...