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Linguistic Inquiry

Summer 2019, Vol. 50, No. 3, Pages 439-486
(doi: 10.1162/ling_a_00315)
© 2019 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Topic Strategies and the Internal Structure of Nominal Arguments in Greek and Italian
Article PDF (333.45 KB)
Abstract
In this article, we argue that a set of unexpected contrasts in the interpretation of clitic-left-dislocated indefinites in Greek and Italian derive from structural variation in the nominal syntax of the two languages. Greek resists nonreferential indefinites in clitic left-dislocation, resorting to the topicalization of an often bare noun for nonreferential topics. By contrast, clitic left-dislocation is employed in Italian for topics regardless of their definite/indefinite interpretation. We argue that this contrast is directly linked to the wide availability of bare nouns in Greek, which stems from a structural difference in the nominal syntax of the two languages. In particular, we hypothesize that Greek nominal arguments lack a D layer. Rather, they are Number Phrases. We situate this analysis in the context of Chierchia’s (1998) typology of nominals. We argue that, on a par with Italian nouns, Greek nouns are [−arg, +pred]. However, they do not employ a syntactic head (D) for type-shifting to e. Rather, they resort to covert type-shifting, a hypothesis that is necessary to account for the distribution and interpretations of bare nouns in Greek, vis-à-vis other [−arg, +pred] languages like Italian and French.