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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)
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.