In this paper it is argued that unspecified objects in sentences such as Maria leyo anoche (= Maria read (something) last night) should be represented as null incorporated nouns in l-syntax (Hale & Keyser 1993, 2002). Specifically, the material understood as ‘something’ is a null bare N that incorporates into the verb ‘read,’ forming an endocentric compound meaning ‘THING-read.’ While the general idea underlying such a hypothesis is not new (Mateu 2012; Marti 2011; Zubizarreta & Oh 2007), the analysis outlined here provides the first explicit formalization of it in such a way that can account for a wide range of properties (some not yet described in the literature) that are intimately related to what can be broadly defined as ‘noun incorporation constructions’ cross-linguistically. Like certain types of noun incorporation constructions in other languages, unspecified object constructions have the following properties: (i) they are restricted lexically (in this case to ‘activity’/‘manner’ verbs), (ii) the verb+unspecified object may have a conventionalized interpretation, (iii) unspecified objects are indefinite and take obligatory narrow scope with respect to all other operators, (iv) unspecified objects may be modified ‘externally’ by a limited set of adjectives (v) the verb+unspecified object gives rise to an atelic reading. All of these properties are shown to derive from the fact that unspecified objects are null incorporated nouns. This is desirable since the same set of properties are shared by different types of noun incorporation constructions in languages outside Romance and, to a large extent, by bare noun constructions in Spanish and other Romance languages (Espinal & McNally 2011).
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