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Auteur: Zheng SHEN

Syntactic Treatment of the Relative Reading with NP Internal Focus in Superlatives

Abstract/Résumé: We propose that cross-linguistic differences in the availability of certain readings of superlatives stem from the presence vs. absence of D in NP structures. The structural difference together with standard locality conditions correctly derives the distribution of relative readings in English-type languages and Slavic-type languages. Pancheva and Tomaszewicz 2012 (P&T) observe that (1) allow three interpretations in Bulgarian, but two in English. (1) a. John has the best albums by U2. (English) b. Ivan ima naj dobri albumi ot U2. (Bulgarian) Ivan has EST good albums by U2. Absolute Reading: “The U2 albums that John has are better than other U2 albums.” (1a √, 1b √) Relative Reading with NP External Focus (REX): “John has better U2 albums than others do.” (1a √, 1b √) Relative Reading with NP Internal Focus (RIN): “The U2 albums that John has are better than his albums by other bands.” (1a *, 1b √) P&T account for the difference by postulating that the definiteness of the Determiner head blocks movement of the superlative morpheme out of the NP. This is surprising since the superlative DPs with relative readings pattern with indefinite NPs in general (Szabolcsi 1986). Proposal: This cross-linguistic difference regarding RIN is derived from the presence (English) or absence (Slavic) of D. Assumptions: i) Dynamic approach to phasehood (Wurmbrand 2011)—the highest projection of a domain is a phase: NP=phase in Bulgarian, DP=phase in English; ii) PIC: movement out of a phase must occur via the edge, i.e. phase-adjoined or Spec,Phase; iii) DP allows only one specifier. For RIN of (1), both the focus (by U2) and EST must move out of the DP. ii) and iii) prohibit this in English: movements must pass through the phase edge Spec,DP, which can only host one element, hence (2a) is impossible. In Bulgarian, the focus and the AP are both generated at the edge of the NP phase, thus movement in (2b) is allowed. (2) a. *[by U2]2 [est]1 John has [DP=PHASE t the [AP [DegP t1] [A’ good [NP [NP albums] [t2]]]]]. b. [by U2]2 [naj]1 Ivan has [NP=PHASE [AP [DegP t1] good] [NP [NP albums] [t2]]]. Further evidence is found in Slavic when the NP internal focus is not adjoined to NP but a complement of N. Complements of phase heads are immobile. Thus RIN in (3) is unavailable. The contrast between (2b) and (3b) follows from the syntactic account provided here but not from P&T’s account. (3) a. Ivan je sreo naj vise studente lingvistike. (Serbo-Croatian) Ivan is meet EST tall students Linguistics-GEN. “Ivan met the tallest students of Linguistics.” b. *[Linguistics]2 [naj1 Ivan met [NP=PHASE [AP [DegP t1] tall] [NP students t2]] “The Linguistics students that Ivan met are taller than other students Ivan met.”