In several Romance languages, including Catalan, Spanish, Asturian and Neapolitan, several verbs (‘phone’, ‘answer’, ‘shoot’, ‘rob’, among others) can take a dative- or accusative-marked complement. I argue that this alternation is indeed a transition from dative to accusative; that is, it is a process of syntactic change, with different stages of evolution depending on the dialectal or even idiolectal variety. The relevant verbs, being a priori dative-taking intransitive verbs, are analyzed as unergatives, made up of a light verb and a nominal, ‘phone= do+phone call’. When the complement ‘to somebody’ is added, a ditransitive structure is obtained, where I assume that the direct (‘phone call’) and the indirect (‘to somebody’) objects are related via an applicative head. The properties of this functional applicative head allow me to explain the change from dative to accusative case in the first stages of syntactic change. Likewise, I show that the completion of the syntactic change results in a true transitivization of the structure.
This article takes a close look at recent proposals that French (ne) … que exceptives are hidden comparatives involving two silent elements: a covert n-word and a phonologically unrealized autre ‘other’ introducing a partially elided comparative clausal standard headed by que ‘than’. I show that assuming the constant presence of an n-word in the exceptive construction allows us to provide inter alia a scopal treatment of the fact that (ne) … que exceptives in modal contexts are systematically ambiguous between an exclusive reading and a minimal sufficiency reading. As regards the comparative analysis of exceptives, I demonstrate that while the locality of association problem raised by (Homer. 2015. Ne … que and its challenges. In Ulrike Steindl, Thomas Borer, Huilin Fang, Alfredo García Pardo, Peter Guekguezian, Brian Hsu, Charlie O’Hara & Iris Chuoying Ouyang (eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, 111–120. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.) can be resolved by assuming that in French, the standard of comparatives can be clausal or just nominal, the fact that (ne) … que displays a lexically-encoded, conventionalized meaning dependency on focus that is absent from its alleged comparative maximal phonological realization casts some serious doubt on the viability of the comparative analysis of French exceptives. Finally, I examine a number of contexts in which the n-word component of (ne) … que must be overt and argue that this constraint follows from the Intonational Phrase Edge Generalization.
Spanish doubly filled complementizer (DFComp) clauses differ from plain embedded questions in a number of respects (availability of discourse-related projections, islandhood, sequence of tenses, licensing of discourse particles). I argue that the contrast is caused by the presence in the left periphery of these clauses of an illocutionary projection (Haegeman 2004, 2006; Coniglio and Zegrean 2012; Woods 2016b) between the leftmost projection, here identified as Haegeman’s (2004) SubP, and the criterial interrogative projections (InterP and QembP). This illocutionary projection prevents syncretism of the clause-typing and the criterial projections, the default option in plain embedded clauses. This not only explains the range of structural phenomena differentiating DFComp clauses and embedded questions, but also a key semantic property of the former, namely their speech-act denotation. Finally, DFComp clauses are compared with plain embedded questions displaying root behavior under first-person matrix subjects and with English inverted embedded questions. Both are shown to pose minimal variants of the structural pattern proposed for DFComp clauses.
Linguists have keenly studied the realization of focus – the part of the sentence introducing new information – because it involves the interaction of different linguistic modules. Syntacticians have argued that Spanish uses word order for information-structural purposes, marking focused constituents via rightmost movement. However, recent studies have challenged this claim. To contribute sentence-processing evidence, we conducted a self-paced reading task and a judgment task with Mexican and Catalonian Spanish speakers. We found that movement to final position can signal focus in Spanish, in contrast to the aforementioned work. We contextualize our results within the literature, identifying three basic facts that theories of Spanish focus and theories of language processing should explain, and advance a fourth: that mismatches in information-structural expectations can induce processing delays. Finally, we propose that some differences in the existing experimental results may stem from methodological differences.