Deriving Possession from Location, Accompaniment, and Paths to Nowhere: A Microcomparative Analysis of Clausal Possession in English and Spanish
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractBuilding on decompositional analyses of prepositions and possessive verbs (Harley 2002, Svenonius 2010, Levinson 2011) this dissertation develops a microcomparative analysis of clausal possession constructions in Spanish and English within a Minimalist Program framework (Chomsky 1995, 2000). The overall claim is that the syntax and meaning of clausal possession constructions are determined, in large part, by the syntax and semantics of an overt or incorporated preposition. Overt prepositions signal the presence of a light preposition, or p, in a structure like the following: [pP p [PP P …]] (Svenonius 2010, Levinson 2011). The light preposition (or its absence) straightforwardly derives the structural hierarchies and semantics of both well-known and overlooked clausal possession constructions. When the light preposition is absent, the P can incorporate into a stative verb and generate verbs of possession (i.e., have). Both the type of P and the type of verb determines the spell-out and meaning of the resulting relation. When the light preposition is present, it determines the structural and semantic relation between two arguments. In addition, I show that light prepositions can be categorized by the c-command relation between possessor and possessum within the structures they generate, similar to Harley’s (2002) P¬HAVE / PLOC distinction. One set (the PHAVE set) includes light prepositions that generate structures where the possessor c-command the possessum, like pCONTROL (Levinson 2011), pDATIVE (Levinson 2011) and p¬CONSIST (a new light preposition that accounts for sentences like la casa es de adobe, ‘the house is made out of adobe’). Members of the novel PLOC set, introduced in this dissertation, create a structure where the possessum c-commands the possessor. This set minimally includes light prepositions like pBELONG, pTARGET, pCONTROLLED, pEXTENT among others. This offers a new way to account for the seemingly locative syntax of possession constructions across languages. I extend Levinson’s analysis of English have to its Spanish equivalent tener by showing that it is derived from the incorporation of a comitative preposition into a stative verb, ser: TENER = SER + PCOMITATIVE¬. I show that the Spanish verb of temporary possession traer is formed when the same preposition incorporates into the perfective copular form estar: TRAER = ESTAR + PCOMITATIVE¬. The comitative preposition can remain overt if a p merges with PP, blocking the incorporation of PCOMITATIVE into the verb: [pP p [PP PCOMITATIVE …]]. This creates sentences like están con hambre ~ they are with hunger (‘they are hungry’). Clausal possession constructions where the subject is an inalienable possessor (la casa es de adobe ~ the house is made of adobe) are formed when the light preposition pCONSIST merges with a PP headed by a reference marker de (‘of’/‘from’): [pP pCONSIST [PP PDE …]]. English sentences where an inalienably possessor noun c-commands its possessor (there’s a smell to water) are formed when the light preposition pBELONG merges with a reference marker to: [pP pBELONG [PP PTO …]]. If the light preposition does not introduce an inalienable relation, like pTARGET, it can merge with locative prepositions and create sentences that implicate a possessive reading (there’s a little money on him). I show that these constructions can be small clauses that merge directly to the verb (stative be and go) or that they can be nominalized if they are housed within a DP (the pieces to the puzzle). Finally, the pLOC structures and the pHAVE structures can be combined, leading to doubling of the possessor: it has some truth to it. This approach also accounts for object and oblique experiencer constructions in English (sports bore him/ sports are boring to him). The analysis also provides a decompositional account of Spanish’s existential verb haber (Torrego 1999) and the stage level copula estar (Gallego and Uriagereka 2016), both of which appear in possession constructions. The dissertation also shows how the analysis relates to Spanish experiencer constructions and dative-doubling constructions as well as sentences with the verb belong.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition & Teaching