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The syntax of existential quantification

Natalia Kondrashova

Ph.D. Dissertation, 1996


This dissertation examines several issues in the Generative Grammar framework concerned with the relation between surface syntax and Logical Form (LF). First, it considers the question of how LF representations are built in structures containing an abstract existential operator ($/exists$) which, according to Heim's semantic theory, is introduced at LF (Heim's Existential Closure over VP). It is proposed that the semantic operator $/exists$ is subject to the Lexicalization Requirement which establishes a licensing relation between semantic operators and overt syntactic categories. Empirical evidence, drawn mainly from Russian copular sentences, is used to demonstrate that Existential Closure fails to occur unless it is licensed by a verbal element which must be present in the overt syntax. The analysis proposed in this work treats the copula as an 'expletive' that is inserted in functional projections to support various syntactic features and/or Existential Closure. Definiteness Effects in Russian locative and possessive sentences are described, which further supports the proposal. Another question discussed is whether the formation of quantificational domains at LF is reflected in the surface syntax of scrambling languages. It is demonstrated that in Russian, which is a typical scrambling language, surface positions of NPs do not correlate with any particular interpretations, which would be expected if scrambling were motivated by LF-building principles. Moreover, Russian allows semantic variables to scramble outside the scope of operators that bind them, creating surface representations that cannot be directly mapped to LFs. Therefore, it is proposed that scrambling is motivated by an independent set of principles operating at I(nformation)-structure which is a level of representation distinct from LF. Two types of scrambling, F-scrambling and N-scrambling, are described which are motivated by two different mechanisms operating in surface syntax: I-structure building, and I-structure disambiguation.

Department of Linguistics University of Wisconsin-Madison

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