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  • Modifying Spatial PA remark on Svenonius (2010)
  • Daniel Milway

1. Introduction

Descriptions of spatial adpositions usually divide them into two classes based on their semantics: locative and directional. Generally, locative Ps (e.g., inside, between, beside, above) head PPs that describe static locations, while directional Ps (e.g., into, towards, from, across, through) head PPs that describe trajectories. English locative PPs, when used with manner-of-motion verbs, tend to be ambiguous between locative and directional meanings, which I refer to as located motion and directionalized locative readings, respectively. Similarly, directional PPs, when used with statives and imperfectives, are interpreted as locatives called G-locations (Svenonius 2010).

(1) John ran [PPbetween the pylons]

a. ≈ John ran back and forth between the pylons. (located motion)

b. ≈ John passed between the pylons, running (directionalized locative)

(2) A band is playing across the meadow.

a. ≈ Strung across the meadow, a band is playing. (directional/extended reading)

b. ≈ At the end of a hypothetical journey across the meadow, a band is playing. (G-location)

Any formal analysis of spatial P should minimally capture the above facts.

There is a line of research stemming from Jackendoff's (1983) conceptual analysis of spatial expressions, which takes the descriptive terminology to be transparently mapped to syntactic heads. This line of research can be seen in van Riemsdijk and Huybregts (2002), Son and Svenonius (2008), Svenonius (2010, 2012), and Pantcheva (2011) among others, who propose the cartographic functional se-quence shown in (3). Specifically, Svenonius (2010) proposes that (3) represents the functional sequence of spatial P in English.


[End Page 133]

It should be noted that the focus of cartographic/nanosyntactic research into spatial P tends to be on the decomposition of the individual heads as represented in (3). Svenonius (2006, 2010, 2012) proposes that (low) Place heads are a shorthand for a locative functional sequence, while Pantcheva (2011) argues the same for Path heads. This type of fine-grained analysis, however, tends to begin with the proposal that Path sequences dominate Place sequences. If this initial proposal can be shown to be problematic or false, then the analyses that rest on it will likely have to be rethought.

In this paper I offer an empirical critique of the cartographic/nanosyntactic analysis of English directionals given by Svenonius (2010, 2012). Specifically, I present a modification pattern predicted by the structure in (3), and show that it does not obtain for English.

2. Modifying Spatial P

In the spirit of Pollock (1989) and Cinque (1999) I use adverbials to assess the the functional structure proposed for directional PPs. In section 2.1 I discuss the properties of halfway and well, which modify PathPs and PlacePs, respectively. In section 2.2 these modifiers are used to test for the presence of hypothesized Path and Place heads in several classes of directional PPs.

2.1 Halfway and well

As might be expected, directional and locative PPs differ with respect to the modification they take. The modifiers well (Yang 2015) and halfway (Bochnak 2013) are examples of PlaceP modifiers and PathP modifiers, respectively. In this section I dis- cuss each of these modifiers, in turn, and show how I will use them to test Svenonius' analysis.

Compare the effect of well-modification on PlacePs, in (4), and on PathPs, in (5).


a. The ball sat (well) on the green.

b. The dog sat (well) inside the house.

c. Alex stood (well) behind Jamie.


a. John biked (*well) to the store.

b. The plane flew (*well) toward Berlin.

c. Mary ran (*well) from the building.

Well is able to felicitously modify PlacePs but not PathPs. Note, however, that there are some PlacePs that cannot be modified by well, as demonstrated by the deviance of the strings in (6).1 [End Page 134]


a. *Bill sat well beside the house.

b. *Mary sat well near the house.

The acceptability of well-modification can therefore be taken as evidence of a PlaceP, but the unacceptibility of well-modification with a particular preposition is not necessarily evidence for the absence of a PlaceP.

In contrast to well, halfway modifies both PlacePs and PathPs, but with very different...


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