Technical Report LCL9901

Title: DP Structure and Flexible Semantics
Authors: Yoad Winter
Abstract: Two general paradigms have influenced the study of nominals since the middle eighties. According to the syntactic DP hypothesis of Abney (1987), the syntactic unit that had formerly been known as noun phrase should in fact be analyzed as a phrase headed by a determiner, hence the label DP. Quite independently of this syntactic development, Partee (1987) proposed a type shifting paradigm for the semantic analysis of nominals (now called DPs). In Partee's proposal DPs are ambiguous between a referential reading of type e, a predicative reading of type et and a quantificational reading of type (et)t. DP meanings can flexibly move between their different readings due to covert application of semantic operators. The present paper proposes some strong relationships between these syntactic and semantic paradigms. It is argued that the structure of the DP affects its semantics in that the NP level within the DP is purely predicative and the DP level itself is purely quantificational. However, the intermediate D' level is flexible between the predicate/quantifier semantic categories, due to the covert application of semantic operators at this level. Partee's assumption, adopted from Discourse Representation Theory and more traditional approaches in philosophical logic, that some DPs need to have a (discourse) referential reading, is withdrawn. Instead of Partee's type shifting operators between the three semantic categories she assumes, two operators are used between predicates and quantifiers. The choice function operation of Reinhart (1997) and Winter (1997) is used as a general operator from predicates to quantifiers. The minimum operator of Winter (1996)is used as a general operator from quantifiers to predicates. These two operations, referred to as category shifting operators, account for most of the Partee data and substantially extend the theory of flexibility to treat some intricate phenomena in the domains of coordination, plurality and scope. Because of the proposed syntax-semantics mapping, restrictions on category shifting follow in the system from syntactic assumptions on the structure of DPs. In this way, semantic phenomena can be used as arguments for syntactic assumptions on DP structures. Some of the central syntactic claims that are made throughout this paper are the following. 1. Simple coordinations of nominals using and and or can be either DPs or D's. However, complex coordinations using both...and and either...or can be DPs but not D's. 2. Accusative case assignment in Hebrew using the marker et is at the DP level but not at the D' level. 3. Verbless predicative constructions (e.g. I consider Mary a teacher) select for a predicative NP (e.g. a teacher), and not for D' (e.g. some teacher). 4. Plural number marking of nominal conjunctions is at the D' or DP levels. Therefore, so-called ``appositional'' conjunctions (e.g. an author and a teacher has passed away) appear only with NPs but not with D's and DPs (e.g. *some author and some teacher has passed away). Section 2 reviews Partee's type shifting paradigm. Section 3 introduces the category shifting proposal and its differences from Partee's system. Section 4 develops and supports the proposed hypothesis about the relationships between DP structure and flexible semantics.
CopyrightThe above paper is copyright by the Technion, Author(s), or others. Please contact the author(s) for more information

Remark: Any link to this technical report should be to this page (, rather than to the URL of the PDF files directly. The latter URLs may change without notice.

To the list of the LCL technical reports of 1999
To the main CS technical reports page

Computer science department, Technion