Accessible Published by De Gruyter Mouton September 23, 2015

Possessives and relative clauses in Spanish

Luis Eguren
From the journal Probus

Abstract

In this paper, the properties of Spanish DPs including a possessive pronoun and a relative clause are thoroughly described and analyzed. Adopting a raising analysis for both prenominal possessives and restrictive relatives, it is claimed that the incompatibility of a determiner possessive and a restrictive relative in current standard Spanish is due to the violation of an interpretive constraint sanctioning subextraction from [Spec, CP]. It is further proposed that, in constructions in which a possessive pronoun does combine with a relative clause, the possessive is not subextracted from [Spec, CP]. It is finally shown that this proposal accounts for different well-formed dialectal and Old Spanish patterns with a prenominal possessive and a restrictive relative and also applies to data from other Romance languages.

1 Introduction

As described in Brucart (1994, 1999), the combination of a prenominal possessive and a restrictive relative clause in current general Spanish is deviant (1), whereas postnominal possessives are fully compatible with restrictive relatives (2), and a prenominal possessive does co-occur with an appositive relative (3): [1]

(1)
??Sulibroconelqueestudiamoselañopasado...
hisbookwiththethatstudied-1pltheyearlast

??His book with which we studied last year...’

(2)
Ellibrosuyoconelqueestudiamoselañopasado...
thebookhiswiththethatstudied-1pltheyearlast

‘The book of his with which we studied last year...’

(3)
Sulibro,conelqueestudiamoselañopasado...
hisbookwiththethatstudied-1pltheyearlast

‘His book, with which we studied last year...’

In this paper, I offer a new account of the facts in (1)–(3). Adopting Kayne’s (1994) raising analysis of restrictive relatives clauses, and also assuming the widely shared view that determiner possessives are first base-generated as nominal modifiers and then move to the DP domain, I will propose that the incompatibility of Spanish prenominal possessives and restrictive relatives illustrated in (1) is due to the violation of an interpretive constraint banning subextraction from [Spec, CP]. The idea is thus that, in this construction, the possessive, which is part of the raised relative “head” in [Spec, CP] of the relative clause, moves out of this position to reach the clause-external DP, giving rise to an anomalous output. As for the well-formed combinations in (2) and (3), I will argue that, in these cases, subextraction of the possessive from [Spec, CP] does not take place.

The content of the paper is organized as follows. In Section 2, previous analyses of the phenomenon under study are first critically reviewed. Section 3 sets out my assumptions on the derivation of possessives and relative clauses. In Section 4, my proposal on the incompatibility of possessives and restrictive relatives is presented. Section 5 addresses dialectal and Old Spanish data bearing on this topic. In Section 6, I extend my proposal to other Romance languages. Section 7 finally contains the main conclusions of this research.

2 Previous analyses

The incompatibility of determiner possessives and restrictive relative clauses is discussed, within the generative framework, in González Escribano (1995) and Brucart (1994). In this section, I will examine the proposals in these two papers, showing that they both have conceptual and empirical problems.

González Escribano (1995) focuses on present-day Standard English, where DPs containing a prenominal possessor and a restrictive relative are also prohibited (4a,b), while postnominal genitives are compatible with restrictive relatives (4c,d) (his examples and judgments):

(4)

  1. a.

    *This is your book that I borrowed last week.

  2. b.

    *His daughter´s son that lives next door is a good teacher.

  3. c.

    This is the book of yours that I borrowed last week.

  4. d.

    This is the umbrella of Percy’s that we borrowed.

González Escribano builds his account of the ungrammaticality of English examples like the ones in (4a,b) on the following main assumptions: (a) restrictive relative clauses have an identificational meaning and are adjoined to DPs; (b) the basic semantic import of the D head is “identification”, and their typical exponents are th-words (the, this...) and the ’s clitic; (c) the D clitic ’s, being a Case assigner, must be adjoined to a lexical DP in [Spec, DP] at S-Structure; and (d) inherently Case-marked specifiers of N (possessives) must also rise into [Spec, DP] and have their Case feature checked.

Under these assumptions, this author argues that, if the ID(entification) feature under D gets discharged by determiners like the or this, the ID feature will percolate up to the DP node and c-command the adjoined relative clause, allowing the correct coindexation and interpretation of the wh-item. However, if the ID feature “jumps” under the form –s onto a lexical DP landing in [Spec, DP], then it cannot percolate up to the node that functions as the antecedent of the relative (because the feature is not under the head D but under a Spec position), thus not being available as the required ID specification of an appropriate antecedent for the wh-item.

There are serious problems with this account, among them the following. Note, first, that González Escribano’s analysis presupposes that his Identification Procedure operates at S-Structure, which seems to be unmotivated (i.e. why comes that the ID feature on the D clitic –s does not percolate up to the DP node at D-Structure?). Moreover, for this proposal to be operative, it must be taken for granted that –s is merged under D, which is controversial: alternative analyses can be found in the literature, stating, for example, that –s is a possessive marker (i.e. a functional head Poss) heading a Poss(essor) Phrase in the extended projection of the noun, or a nominal copula that surfaces in contexts of DP-internal Predicate Inversion (see, e.g., Corver 2009: 87–88, and the references therein).

The main problem with the proposal under discussion is, in any case, that it calls for a [DP DP CP] analysis of restrictive relative clauses, which, as González Escribano (1995: 732) himself acknowledges, “clashes head-on with traditional doctrine”. It is generally assumed, at this respect, that restrictive relatives are interpreted as intersective modifiers of the nominal “head” (Partee 1975; Heim and Kratzer 1998), whereas in non-restrictive (appositive) relatives, a coreference relation is established between the relative pronoun and the whole DP “head”. This semantic difference has been related to different syntactic configurations: a restrictive relative is c-commanded by the determiner, which is not part of the relative “head”; in appositive relatives, the determiner is part of the relative “head” and does not c-command the relative clause. This has been structurally captured, for instance, by claiming that restrictive relatives are adjoined to a nominal projection (NP or N’), while appositive relatives are adjoined to the whole DP. The structural representation attributed to restrictive relatives by González Escribano (1995) therefore exactly corresponds to a well-known representation that has been traditionally assigned to appositive relatives (i.e. [DP DP CP]), thus blurring the distinction between these two main types of relative clauses.

In contrast to the proposal in González Escribano (1995), Brucart (1994) does adhere to the standard view that restrictive relatives are intersective modifiers, and adopts, in particular, a well-known version of the N-CP analysis, whereby these subordinate clauses are analyzed as N’ adjuncts (5a). As for determiner possessives, this author considers that they are XPs, which are first base-generated as complements of the noun, next move to [Spec, NP] (the position he assigns to prenominal possessives in Catalan-like languages), and end up landing in [Spec, DP], where they check their [+definite] feature (5b).

(5)

  1. a.

    [DP el [NP [N’ libro [CP con el que estudiamos el año pasado]]]]

  2. b.

    [DP sui [D’ Ø [NP ti [N’ libro ti]]]]

Against this framework, Brucart claims that the incompatibility of a determiner possessive and a restrictive relative in Spanish results from the violation of the Principle of incidence of nominal modifiers in (6), where the notion of “incidence” can be formalized in terms of Higginbotham’s (1985) thematic-identification in modification relations:

(6)

Principle of incidence of nominal modifiers

A restrictive complement of the nominal head cannot affect a unit that is outside its c-command domain.

For Brucart, a nominal expression like the one in (1a), repeated in (7a), is thus ungrammatical because the relative clause, which follows all restrictive modifiers in a nominal expression, does not c-command the raised possessive, violating the principle in (6). Brucart’s analysis is represented in (7b):

(7)
a.
*Sulibroconelqueestudiamoselañopasado... [2]
hisbookwiththethatstudied-1pltheyearlast

??His book with which we studied last year...’

b.

[DP sui [D’ Ø [NP ti [N’ libro ti [CP con el que estudiamos el año pasado]]]]]

The proposal in (7b) also faces some problems. First, the principle in (6) must apply at S-Structure: otherwise, the relative clause, which does c-command the possessive in its base position, would “affect” it in this position, and the example in (7a) should be well-formed. Moreover, it must be assumed that traces of moved items cannot be “affected” by a restrictive complement of the nominal head, but this seems to be just a stipulation, since no independent evidence is given for why this should be the case.

Second, Brucart’s account predicts that Spanish prenominal possessives should not combine with participial reduced relatives, given that this type of restrictive relative clauses, like full restrictive relatives, also occupy the right-most position in a nominal expression. This prediction is not borne out, however, as shown by the grammaticality of examples like the following: [3]

(8)
MilibropublicadoporBlackwellhasidoreeditado.
mybookpublishedbyBlackwellhasbeenre-edited

‘My book published by Blackwell has been re-edited.’

Third, as Brucart (1994: 52) points out, Spanish prenominal possessives are compatible with AP and PP restrictive modifiers, which can optionally follow a postnominal possessive pronoun or a prepositional genitive phrase (9b). Under Brucart’s analysis, the combination in (9a) should therefore be ruled out, since the determiner possessive is outside the c-command domain of the restrictive modifier also in this case (9c).

(9)
a.
Susalumnosinteligentes/de primero
hisstudentsintelligent/of first year

‘His intelligent/first year students’

b.
Losalumnossuyos/de Juaninteligentes/de primero
thestudentshis/of Johnintelligent/of first year

‘The intelligent/first year students of his/John’s’

c.

[DP susi [D’ Ø [NP ti [N’ alumnos ti [AP/PP inteligentes/de primero]]]]]

Finally, in some varieties of American Spanish (and in Old Spanish as well), a prenominal possessive preceded by the indefinite article co-occurs with a restrictive relative: [4]

(10)
a.
Unamiprimaqueesmaestra(Guatemala)
amycousinthatisteacher

‘A cousin of mine that is a teacher’

b.
UnsualguazilmayorqueauienombreAli(Old Spanish)
ahisconstablemajorthathadnameAli

‘A major constable of his that was called Ali’

If Brucart’s analysis in (7b) were applied to this case, as in (11), the prenominal possessive would now move to [Spec, NP] (as in Romance Catalan-like languages; cf. supra), a position that is not c-commanded by the restrictive relative clause either, again leading to a violation of the principle in (6). The American/Old Spanish construction illustrated in (10) should therefore be ungrammatical, contrary to facts.

(11)

  1. a.

    [DP una [NP mii [N’ prima ti [CP que es maestra]]]]

  2. b.

    [DP un [NP sui [N’ alguazil mayor ti [CP que auie nombre Ali]]]]

In the light of the observations above, I must conclude that an alternative account of the (in)compatibility of prenominal possessives and restrictive relatives is required. Before developing my proposal in Section 4, I will make explicit my assumptions on the derivation of both possessives and relative clauses.

3 Assumptions on the derivation of possessives and relative clauses

I will first assume the commonly shared view in generative research that the prenominal and the thematic position of possessives are transformationally related (see, e.g., Cardinaletti 1998; Alexiadou et al. 2007; and the references therein). Focusing on alienable possession, I will suppose, in particular, that Romance possessive pronouns are generated as follows: [5] (a) postnominal possessives remain in its base position, and the postnominal order results from leftward N(P) movement across the possessive (see Cardinaletti 1998 for Italian; Bernstein 2001 for Spanish; and Brito 2007 for Portuguese) (12a); (b) prenominal possessives preceded by an overt determiner in Italian-like languages move to the specifier position of a functional nominal projection lower than D (cf. Picallo 1994; Cardinaletti 1998; Brito 2007; and Alexiadou et al. 2007, among others), arguably being attracted by the person feature in IP/AgrP (Brito 2007) (12b); and (c) the determiner possessive of Spanish (and French), which I take to be an XP, further rises to [Spec, DP] to have its [+definite] feature checked (cf. Brucart 1994; Ihsane 2003) (12c). [6]

(12)

  1. a.

    [DP [D el]... [NumP [Num libroj] [PossP mío [Poss tj]... [NP [N tj]]]]]

  2. b.

    [DP [D il] [IP miok [I] [NumP [Num libroj] [PossP tk [Poss tj]... [NP [N tj]]]]]]

  3. c.

    [DP mik [D’ [D Ø] [IP tk [I] [NumP [Num libroj] [PossP tk [Poss tj]... [NP [N tj]]]]]]]

I will further adopt Kayne’s (1994) version of the raising/promotion analysis of restrictive relatives, whereby the relative clause is a complement of an external D (i.e. [DP D0 CP]), and the relative “head” is first generated in the relativization site within the relative clause and then moves to [Spec, CP], as implemented, in particular, in Bianchi (1999, 2000) and de Vries (2002). [7] As represented in (13b), both Bianchi and de Vries hold that the relative “head”, being an argument within the relative clause (Borsley 1997), always originates as an indefinite relative DP with a relative morpheme in the D0 position (Drel), which is overt in wh-relatives and empty in non-wh-relatives. This DP then raises to [Spec, CP] for wh-checking, and the NP complement of Drel subsequently moves to the Spec of the relative DP in order to establish a local agreement relation with the external D, and check the φ-features and the [+N] selectional feature of the determiner. [8]

(13)

  1. a.

    The picture that Bill liked

  2. b.

    [DP the [CP [DP [NP picture]j [D’ Drel tj]i [C’ that Bill liked ti]]]

With respect to past participle relatives, I will follow Bhatt (1999) and Giurgea and Soare (2010) in assuming, contra Kayne (1994), [9] that reduced relatives are not CPs. As these linguists point out, the idea that reduced relatives lack a CP layer is supported by the fact that, in contrast to full restrictive relative clauses, they never include an overt complementizer or relative pronoun. Moreover, in reduced relatives, the relativized element always occupies the subject position, whereas in full relatives relativization is not restricted to any specific argument. Against this background, I will share, in particular, Giurgea and Soare’s (2010) view that participial constructions project to PredP: [10]

(14)

  1. a.

    The books sent to me

  2. b.

    [DP the [PredP booksi [Pred Ø [vP sent ti to me]]]]

Finally, I will adopt a non-raising analysis of appositive relatives, like the one developed by de Vries’ (2002, 2006). [11] As depicted in (15b), de Vries claims that an appositive relative is a semi-free relative with a pronominal empty head (DP2), which is connected to the clause-external relative “head” (DP1) by specifying coordination (i.e. Annie, who is our manager = Annie, (namely/or, she/the one) who is our manager). In (15b), &: represents the head of a specifying coordination phrase, j and i have the same referent, and, at a discourse level, k = i.

(15)

  1. a.

    Annie, who is our manager

  2. b.

    [CoP [DP1 Annie]i [Co’ &: [DP2 D0k [CP whok is our manager]]j]]

With these assumptions in mind, I will next expose my proposal on the (in)compatibility of possessive pronouns and relative clauses in Spanish.

4 The proposal

The idea I would like to put forward is that the incompatibility of prenominal possessives and restrictive relatives in Spanish results from the violation of a well-known Condition on Extraction Domains establishing that [Spec, CP] renders syntactic objects in this position internally frozen (i.e. they can be extracted as a whole, but their subparts cannot be extracted) (see Gallego 2009, 2010, and the references therein). The effects of this restriction are illustrated by the anomalous English sentences in (16), in which wh-movement targets a subpart of an already wh-moved phrase: [12]

(16)

  1. a.

    ??[CP Whoi C do you wonder [CP [which picture of ti]j C Mary bought tj]]?

  2. b.

    ??[CP Whoi C do you wonder [CP [which picture of ti]j C tj is on sale]]?

(Lasnik and Saito 1992: 102)

My account of the deviance of DPs like the one in (17a) would then go as follows. As depicted in the simplified structure in (17b), in this construction, the possessive is base-generated as a nominal modifier. It is thus part of the relative “head”, which originates in the relativization site within the relative clause and raises to [Spec, CP]. In order to have its [+definite] feature checked, the Spanish prenominal possessive further moves to the specifier position of the external D out of the moved relative “head”. The possessive is therefore subextracted from [Spec, CP], the condition above banning subextraction from this position is violated, and the construction is ill-formed.

(17)
a.
??Sulibroquemeprestó
hisbookthatmelent-3sg

??His book that he lent me’

b.

The analysis in (17b) is inspired by the observations in Brucart (1999: §7.2.5.1), who attributes the incompatibility of prenominal possessives and restrictive relatives in Spanish to the double role the prenominal possessive plays in a nominal expression: on the one hand, it is interpreted as a modifier of the noun; on the other, it functions as a definite determiner (see (12c) in Section 3). This being the case, and assuming that the relative “head” in restrictive relatives includes both the noun and its complements, but excludes the determiner (see Section 2), there then arises a conflict, Brucart argues, between the fact that the possessive, as a nominal modifier, belongs to the relative “head” and its being a determiner, which implies that it cannot count as part of the antecedent in a restrictive relative (see also RAE: §44.8g).

Following Gallego (2010: 52), I take the failure to subextract from [Spec, CP] to be related to an interface constraint sanctioning ambiguous outputs. This interface constraint, which, more generally, applies to island effects on XPs moved to edge positions in the sentential left periphery, can be seen as a consequence of Chomsky’s (1986) Principle of Full Interpretation, requiring derivations, in the case at hand, to provide unambiguous instructions to the external systems (cf. Gallego 2009, 2010). I thus share Gallego’s position that the Condition on Extraction Domains banning subextraction from [Spec, CP] is not narrow syntactic, but has to be reinterpreted as an effect of the Principle of Full Interpretation. [13]

In my view, the interpretive (non-computational) nature of this constraint lies behind the following paradigm of general Spanish, which, to my knowledge, has never been observed (nor discussed) before: [14]

(18)
a.
??Sulibroquemeprestóesinteresante.
hisbookthatmelent-3sgisinteresting

??His book that he lent me is interesting.’

b.
?SulibrodeCortázarquemeprestóesinteresante.
hisbookofCortázarthatmelent-3sgisinteresting

?His book by Cortázar that he lent me is interesting.’

c.
Sulibro(deCortázar)quemeprestóesmásinteresanteque
hisbook(ofCortázar)thatmelent-3sgismoreinterestingthan
sulibro (de Borges)quenoquisoprestarme.
hisbook (of Borges)thatnotwanted-3sglend.me

‘his book (by Cortázar) that he lent me is more interesting than his book (by Borges) that he didn’t want to lend me.’

Under my judgments, and those of the native speakers I have asked about these kind of data, when uttered out of context, the combination of a prenominal possessive and a restrictive relative clause in a Spanish DP is just degraded, but not ungrammatical (18a) (see fn. 2). This combination improves if the relative “head” gets more descriptive content by adding restrictive modifiers to the noun (18b). And it is felicitous in a contrastive setting (18c). It comes as no surprise then that a number of examples of this construction, like the ones in (19), can in fact be found in the Spanish CREA database with an implicit partitive/contrastive interpretation: in the sentence in (19a), for instance, it is understood that the relatives of yours that had met him are a subset of your relatives, so that there are relatives of yours that had not met him. [15]

(19)
a.
¿Quétehantransmitidotusfamiliaresqueloconocieron?
whatyouhave-3pltransmittedyourrelativesthathimmet-3pl

‘What have his relatives that had met him told you?’ (Spain)

b.
Conelobjetivodedarunmejorservicioasuspasajeros
withtheaimofgiveabetterservicetotheirpassengers
queviajanalaChiquitania...(Bolivia)
thattravell-3pltotheChiquitania

‘With the aim of giving a better service to their passengers that travell to the Chiquitania.’

c.
...paraaquellaspersonasquetengantemorsobresus
forthosepeoplethathave.subj-3plfearabouttheir
parientesquevivíanenCalifornia...(Bolivia)
relativesthatlived-3plinCalifornia

‘... for those people that are worried about their relatives that lived in California.’

As said above, taking the ban on subextraction from [Spec, CP] to be an interpretive interface constraint can help us explain the paradigm in (18): the construction is anomalous, but not ungrammatical, and it improves under appropriate interpretive conditions. In a Spanish DP including a prenominal possessive and a restrictive relative, the determiner possessive plays a major role in establishing the reference of the whole DP, but it is also part of the content of the moved relative “head”, which is interpreted deep inside the relative clause. This causes a problem with the identification of the individual the DP refers to, which can be reduced (or even solved) through the addition of restrictive modifiers to the noun and/or the insertion of the expression in a contrastive context.

A similar scenario obtains in other cases of subextraction from XPs situated in the specifier position of a sentential left-peripheral projection. In the example in (20a), taken from Gallego (2009: 42), for instance, topicalization affects a subpart of an already topicalized DP, and the output is again anomalous. The acceptability of this sentence clearly improves, however, if the topic in the matrix clause has a contrastive interpretation and the DP in topic position of the subordinate clause is endowed with more descriptive content (20b).

(20)
a.
??[CPDeJavierMaríasi,C meparece [CP Cque[las novelas ti]j,
ofJavierMaríascl-meseem-3sgthatthe novels
lashansobrevalorado tj]]
cl-themhave-3ploverrated
b.
[CP DeJAVIERMARÍASi(nodeBORGES), C meparece[CP C
ofJavierMarías(notofBorges)cl-meseem-3sg
que[lasnovelasticortas]j,lashansobrevalorado tj]]
thatthenovelsshortcl-themhave-3ploverrated

Given my assumptions on the derivation of the different types of possessive pronouns and relative clauses in the previous section, the proposal on the deviance of the Spanish construction with a determiner possessive and a restrictive relative I have just presented also provides a straightforward explanation for all the well-formed combinations involving possessive pronouns and relative clauses described so far: what these constructions have in common is that the possessive is not subextracted from [Spec, CP] in the relative clause, so that the restriction sanctioning subextraction from an XP occupying this position is not violated.

Take first postnominal possessives, which, as we already know (see Section 1), combine with a restrictive relative (21a). As shown in (21b), a postnominal possessive remains in situ within the raised relative “head” (see Section 3). Therefore, as compared to prenominal determiner possessives, subextraction out of [Spec, CP] does not take place in this case.

(21)
a.
Ellibrosuyoquemeprestó
thebookhisthatmelent-3sg

‘The book of his that he lent me’

b.

[DP el [CP [XP libro suyo]i [C’ que me prestó ti]]]

Under de Vries’ (2002, 2006) non-raising coordination analysis of appositive relatives, there is no subextraction from [Spec, CP] in the well-formed construction with a Spanish prenominal possessive and an appositive relative illustrated in (22a) either. As represented in (22b), the determiner possessive now moves to the specifier of the clause-external DP relative “head”, and not out of [Spec, CP] of the relative clause, as in restrictive relatives.

(22)
a.
Sulibro,quemeprestó
hisbook,thatmelent-3sg

‘His book, that he lent me’

b.

[CoP [DP1 sui [D’ Ø [NP libro ti]]] [Co’ &: [DP2 D0 [CP que me prestó]]]]

Furthermore, in the acceptable sequence formed by a prenominal possessive and a participial reduced relative (23a), the determiner possessive is again not subextracted from [Spec, CP], since the participial relative, lacking a relative operator, does not contain a CP projection at all (cf. Giurgea and Soare 2010) (23b): [16]

(23)
a.
MilibropublicadoporBlackwell
mybookpublishedbyBlackwell

‘My book published by Blackwell’

b.

[DP mij [D’ Ø [PredP [NP libro tj]i [Pred Ø [vP publicado ti por Blackwell]]]]]

To end up this section, I will take up again the observation in Section 2 that the Spanish determiner possessive is compatible with restrictive modifiers of the noun others than relative clauses (24a), and see how this falls in with my proposal. Focusing on restrictive adjectives, and assuming Cinque’s (2010) idea that adjectives are merged in the specifier of a series of functional projections dominating the NP, in nominal expressions including an adjectival modifier, the determiner possessive just moves out of its base position in the nominal domain and into [Spec, DP], as it does in nominal phrases without adjectival modifiers (24b). [17] The combination of a prenominal possessive and a restrictive adjective is therefore well-formed, as expected.

(24)
a.
Susalumnosinteligentes/de primero
hisstudentsintelligent/of first year

‘His intelligent/first year students’

b.

[DP susj [D’ Ø [[NP alumnos]i [FP inteligentes [F’ Ø [PossP tj [Poss’ Ø [NP ti]]]]]]]]

5 Dialectal variation and Old Spanish facts

Up to this point, I have dealt with core phenomena regarding the (in)compatibility of possessives and relative clauses in current general Spanish. I will now try to show that my proposal also applies to relevant dialectal and Old Spanish data bearing on this topic, which, as far as I know, have not been addressed in previous research within the framework of generative grammar. For ease of exposition, I will divide this section into two parts, corresponding to two different patterns: the [Poss + N + restrictive relative] pattern found in certain American Spanish dialects (and in Old Spanish), in which the prenominal possessive is a determiner introducing the nominal expression, and the [Det + Poss + N + restrictive relative] construction, where the prenominal possessive is preceded by a determiner, which co-existed with the [Poss + N + restrictive relative] construction in Old Spanish, and is also used, even though in a limited way, in some varieties of American Spanish nowadays.

5.1 [Poss + N + restrictive relative]

In the dialects of Spanish spoken in wide areas of Mexico and Central America, as well as in Andean countries like Peru or Bolivia, a determiner possessive does combine with a restrictive relative when the subordinate clause includes a verb denoting possession and/or a verbal affix or personal pronoun that identifies the same individual the possessive refers to. [18] This construction, in which there is a double reference to the possessor within the same DP, is illustrated in (25), (26) and (27) for Mexican, Bolivian and Peruvian Spanish, respectively (the examples are taken from Huerta Flores 2009 and CREA). [19] In the rest of Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain, the construction in (25)–(27) is not used, and the definite article consistently replaces the possessive.

(25)
Sucamaradigitalquesecompróesmuycara.
hiscameradigitalthatsebought-3sgisveryexpensive

‘The digital camera that he bought is very expensive.’

(26)
Intentarágobernarelpaísconsucarisma
will.try-3sgrulethecountrywithhischarisma
quelocaracteriza.
thathimcharacterizes

‘He will try to rule the country with the charisma that characterizes him.’

(27)
Elhotelsololevaacobrarelcuarentaporciento
thehotelonlyhimgoestochargethefortypercent
detodasudeudaquetieneconnosotros.
ofallhisdebtthathaswithwe

‘The hotel will only charge him forty per cent of the debt he has with us.’

As has been noticed (RAE 2009: §18.3k, §44.8g), it is just in the aforementioned dialects of Central and South American current Spanish that the so-called doubled possessive construction can also be found. As shown by the American Spanish examples in (28) (from Company Company 2001; Huerta Flores 2009), in the doubled possessive construction, the possessor is again expressed twice in a nominal expression, by means now of a third person prenominal possessive pronoun, on the one hand, and through a postnominal prepositional genitive phrase containing a DP with the same reference, on the other: [20]

(28)
a.
Yotrabajabaaquíconsumamáde él.
Iworked-1sgherewithhismumof he

‘I worked here with his mum.’

b.
Supreciocomercialde esta bonita agendaesdeveintepesos.
itsprizecommercialofthisnicenotebookisoftwentypesos

‘The commercial prize of this nice notebook is twenty pesos.’

c.
Sulibrode Lydia Cacho,queesunadenunciamuyvaliente...
herbookofLydiaCacho,thatisanaccusationveryvaliant

‘Lydia Cacho’s book, which is a very valiant accusation...’

Meaningfully, the [Poss + N + restrictive relative] pattern in (25) – (27) and the doubled possessive construction in (28) are also widely attested in Old Spanish (examples taken from the CORDE data-base, Company Company 1993 and Huerta Flores 2009): [21]

(29)
a.
Seremosýyoesumugeresusfijasqueél á.
will.be-1plthereIandhiswifeandhisdaughtersthathehas

‘Me and his wife and the daughters that he has will be there.’

b.
Eellaronpiosuporpolaquevistie.
andshetore-3sgherpurple dressthatworn-3sg

‘And she tore the purple dress that she worn.’

c.
Recelóqueavíadedexarsuestudioqueavía
suspected-3sgthathadofgive uphisstudythathad.3sg
començado.
started

‘He suspected that he had to give up the study he had started.’

(30)
a.
ParecequeconoçesaAreúsa,suprimade Elicia.
seemsthatknow-2sgyoutoAreúsahercousinofElicia

‘It seems that you know Areúsa, Elicia’s cousin.’

b.
Dimedesusentendimientosde los búhos.
tell.meoftheirunderstandingoftheeagle owls

‘Tell me about the understanding of the eagle owls.’

c.
Nosanentantotiempodesentirdesucasa
ushaveinso muchtimeofhearfromhishouse
de Pleberio.
of Pleberio

‘After so much time, we should be heard from Pleberio’s house.’

There thus seems to be a strong correlation, both in American Spanish and in Old Spanish, between the occurrence of the doubled possessive construction and the existence of the pattern with a prenominal possessive and a restrictive relative containing morphological or lexical material that also makes reference to the possessor. A natural way to capture this correlation is by assigning the same analysis to the possessive determiner in the two constructions.

The idea I would like to entertain on this point, building on the observations in Company Company (2001) and RAE (2009: §18.3k), is that, in the Spanish doubled possessive construction, the possessive is a definiteness marker that is in place of the definite article, lacking a true possession content, which is conveyed by the postnominal possessive phrase: i.e. an American Spanish nominal expression like su mamá de él ‘his mum of he’ in (28a), for example, is basically interpreted as la mamá de él ‘the mum of he’.

In addition to being a definiteness marker, the possessive in the doubled possessive construction, as compared with the alternating nominal expression with the definite article, evaluates the relation between two entities, indicating that, in the speaker’s view, there exists an intrinsic or close relation between the possessor and the possessum (cf. Company Company 1993, 1994, 1995a, 1995b, 2001 for Old Spanish and American Spanish; Fernández 2013 for Bolivian Spanish; and Risco 2013 for Peruvian Spanish). The speaker will thus choose between the definite article and the possessive depending on the meaning he wants to convey. This characterization of the prenominal possessive in the doubled possessive construction of both American Spanish and Old Spanish is supported by the fact that this construction preferably includes nouns that express inherent or close relations, like kinship terms, body parts, and nouns denoting private or daily use objects, social or personal links, intrinsic abstract properties of the possessor, etc. (see Company Company 1993, 1994; Huerta Flores 2009; Fernández 2013).

The insight that the prenominal possessive in the Spanish doubled possessive construction is a definiteness marker without possession content can be formally expressed by directly merging it in the head position of the DP (31b): [22]

(31)
a.
Sumamádeél
hismumofhe

‘His mum’

b.

[DP [D su] [NP mamá de él]]

In my view, the construction including a determiner possessive and a restrictive relative in American and Old Spanish illustrated in (25)–(27) and (29) is to be analyzed in a similar way. Take, for instance, the American Spanish example in (25a): Su cámara digital que se compró ‘His digital camera that he bought’. It is crystal clear that the possessive does not have a possession content here: this expression cannot mean that the individual at hand bought a camera that he already owned, which is nonsense. Therefore, in this construction, as in the doubled possessive construction, the possessive does not have a true possession meaning and serves as a definiteness marker: putting it in RAE’s (2009: 1352) words, “it can be thought that there is no incompatibility between the prenominal possessive and the restrictive relative clause because, in the former, the reference to the possessor is redundant, so that only the definiteness features are interpreted”. Furthermore, as in the doubled possessive construction, also in this case, by using the possessive instead of the article the speaker seeks to emphasize that, in his view, the possessor has an inherent or close relation with the possessum. [23]

The analysis I have in mind for American Spanish or Old Spanish DPs like the one in (32a) is represented in (32b): the prenominal possessive merges as a definiteness marker under the clause-external D head; it is therefore not subextracted from the raised relative “head” in [Spec, CP], and the construction is felicitous.

(32)
a.
Sucámaradigitalquesecompró
hiscameradigitalthatsebought-3sg

‘The digital camera that he bought’

b.

[DP [D su] [CP [XP cámara digital]i [C’ que se compró ti]]]

In support of this proposal, it can be argued that an analysis along these lines is independently needed in order to account for nominal expressions introduced by the so-called emphatic possessive, which is attested in all dialects of current Spanish. The emphatic possessive, illustrated in the examples in (33), is a reflexive determiner possessive (i.e. it must have an antecedent in the same sentence) that “is used in expressions denoting overrating, closeness, and various affective nuances”, or indicates “the attribution of typical or characterizing properties to an entity, as well as its participation in events or situations that affect it, especially if the speaker associates them with some stereotype” (RAE 2009: 1367):

(33)
a.
Yotambiéntengomisproblemas.
Ialsohave-1sgmyproblems

‘I also have my problems.’

b.
Todoslosdíassecomprasuperiódico
allthedayssebuyshernewspaper
ysetomasucafetito.
andsetakeshercoffee-dim

‘She buys her newspaper and takes her little cup of coffee everyday.’

The emphatic possessive is also devoid of a possession content, as corroborated by the fact that it never has the contrastive interpretation a true possessive is amenable to have, and can often be either omitted, or replaced by a determiner: instead of uttering, for instance, the sentences in (33), we can also say in Spanish Yo también tengo problemas ‘I also have problems’ or Todos los días se compra el periódico y se toma un cafetito ‘Everyday, she buys the newspaper and takes a cup of coffee’, without a significant loss in meaning.

The properties of the Spanish emphatic possessive can again be structurally captured by positing that this lexical item is base-generated within the DP domain, and not as a complement of the noun:

(34)
a.
Superiódico
her-emphnewspaper
b.

[DP [D su] [NP periódico]]

Under this analysis, it is predicted that an emphatic possessive should combine with a restrictive relative clause. This prediction is borne out, as shown by the following examples:

(35)
a.
Yotambiéntengomisproblemasquenotienensolución.
Ialsohave.1sgmyproblemsthatnothave-3plsolution

‘I also have my problems that have no solution.’

b.
Todoslosdíassecomprasuperiódicoquetantolegusta
allthedayssebuyshernewspaperthatso muchherlikes
ysetomasucafetitoquelepreparasumarido.
andsetakeshercoffee-dimthatherpreparesherhusband

‘Everyday, she buys her newspaper that she likes so much and takes her little cup of coffee that her husband prepares for her.’

My proposal for the well-formed construction in (35) with an emphatic possessive and a restrictive relative is represented in (36b): as in the [Poss + N + restrictive relative] pattern of American Spanish and Old Spanish in (32), the emphatic possessive is inserted under D0, and does not move out of the raised relative “head” in [Spec, CP].

(36)
a.
Sucafetitoquelepreparasumarido
her-emphcoffee-dimthatherpreparesherhusband

‘Her cup of coffee that her husband prepares for her’

b.

[DP [D su] [CP [XP cafetito]i [C’ que le prepara ti su marido]]]

This analysis could also be applicable to examples like the ones in (37), which are documented in the CREA database, in which a determiner possessive and a restrictive relative co-occur:

(37)
a.
Esunamujernuestropersonajequetenéisqueadivinar.
isawomanourcelebritythathave-2plthatguess

‘Our celebrity that you have to guess is a woman.’ (Spain)

b.
Compré...otrascositasparaminiñoqueibaanacer.
bought-1sgotherthings-dimformybabythatwenttobe born

‘I bought other little things for my baby that was to be born.’ (Bolivia)

c.
Fuelamedidaobligadatraslacaídadenuestroscompañeros
wasthemoveobligedafterthefallofourmates
quepreparabanlatomadelCongreso.
thatprepared-3pltheseizureof.theCongress(Peru)

‘It was the obliged move after the fall of our mates that were preparing the seizure of the Congress.’

In my view, in the examples in (37), the possessive does not properly express a relation of possession or belonging either, but rather seems to behave as the Spanish “affective possessive” preceding a proper name illustrated in the sentences in (38), taken from RAE (2009), where “a particular individual is not chosen from a set of people with the same name, but the existence of an affective tie between the person designated by the possessive and the one the proper name refers to is marked instead” (RAE 2009: 1355).

(38)
a.
SiteacercasdemasiadoamiSofía, te
Ifyouapproach-2sgtoo muchtomySofia, you
harépedazos.
will.make-1sg pieces

‘If you get too close to my Sofía, I will smash you.’

b.
NatalialoteníatodopreparadocuandosuCarlitos
Nataliaithad-3sgallreadywhenherCarlos-dim
despertó.
woke.up-3sg

‘Natalia had got it all ready when her Carlitos woke up.’

5.2 [Det + Poss + N + restrictive relative]

In Old Spanish, a prenominal possessive could function as a determiner, as in (29) and (30) above, but it could also follow the definite article and, in this case, the possessive once more combined with a restrictive relative clause including a possession denoting verb and/or a verbal affix or personal pronoun that refers to the individual the possessive refers to. This is illustrated in the CORDE examples in (39):

(39)
a.
Lasucoronaqueteníeenlacabeçaeratodadeoro.
thehiscrownthathad-3sgintheheadwasallofgold

‘The crown that he had on his head was all made of gold.’

b.
Porlassuspalabrasqueéldixieselevernáesto.
forthehiswordsthathesaid-3sghimwill.come-3sgthis

‘This will happen to him because of the words that he said.’

Not surprisingly, the doubled possessive construction also obtained in Old Spanish when the possessive was preceded by the definite article (examples found in the CORDE database):

(40)
a.
Grandessonlassusnoblezasde tristan.
Impressivearethehisnobilitiesof tristan

‘Tristan’s nobilities are really impressive.’

b.
Dan...aNuestroSeñorlassusánimasde los defuntos.
give-3pltoOurLordthetheirsoulsof the deceased

‘They give the souls of the deceased to Our Lord.’

This correlation calls for a uniform analysis of the prenominal possessive in (39) and (40). As represented in (41) and (42), I propose at this respect that, in both constructions, the possessive, which again lacks a true possession meaning, does not originate as a complement of the noun, but is merged as an agreement marker located in the head position of an IP/Agr Phrase (see Section 3) in the extended projection of the noun:

(41)
a.
Lassusnoblezasdetristan
thehisnobilitiesoftristan

‘Tristan’s nobilities’

b.

[DP [D las] [IP [I sus]... [NP noblezas de tristan]]]

(42)
a.
Lasucoronaqueteníeenlacabeça
thehiscrownthathad-3sginthehead

‘The crown that he had on his head’

b.

[DP [D la] [CP [XP su corona]i [C’ que teníe ti en la cabeça]]]

As illustrated in the examples in (43) from Company Company (2009) and CREA, a different instantiation of the [Det + Poss + N + restrictive relative] pattern, which was already presented in Section 2, is used in some areas of Central and South America, where a prenominal possessive can follow the indefinite article, and the possessive is fully compatible with a restrictive relative:

(43)
a.
Elotrodíaestabaconunamiprimaqueesmaestra.
theotherdaywas-1sgwithamycousinthatisteacher

‘The other day, I was with a cousin of mine that is a teacher.’

b.
Yotengounmiamigoqueesmuypobrecito.
Ihaveamyfriendthatisverypoor-dim

‘I have a friend of mine that is very poor.’

c.
Unamicholeraqueesperabaenlapuertadelcuartel
amygirlfriendthatwaited-3sgintheentranceof.thebarracks

‘A girlfriend of mine that was waiting at the barracks’ entrance’

As shown in (44), this construction is also widely attested in Old Spanish (cf. Company Company 2009):

(44)
a.
UnsualguazilmayorqueauienombreAli
ahisconstablemajorthathad-3sgnameAli

‘A major constable of his that was called Ali’

b.
Unasusieruamançebillaqueeramuysuprivada
ahisservantyoungsterthatwasveryhisfavourite

‘A youngster servant of his that was his dearest favourite’

c.
Unsufijoqueestavaconél
ahissonthatwaswithhim

‘A son of his that was with him.’

As a matter of fact, in Old Spanish, a prenominal possessive could also follow a demonstrative, a cardinal numeral or a quantifier (cf. RAE 2009: §18.2l; Company Company 2009) and, in all these cases, it combined with a restrictive relative as well (examples from CORDE):

(45)
a.
Aquelsucaudilloquelosesforçava
thattheirchiefthatthemencouraged-3sg

‘That chief of theirs that encouraged them’

b.
Dossussieruosquefuesenpadre & fijo
twohisservantsthatwerefather & son

‘Two servants of his that were father and son...’

c.
Algunassusmedicinasquebeben
sometheirmedicinesthatdrink-3pl

‘Some medicines of theirs that they drink.’

The well-formedness of the pattern in (43)–(45) easily falls under my proposal. As depicted in (46b) and (47b), in this case, the possessive moves to [Spec, IP] (the landing site of the prenominal possessive in Italian-like languages; see (12b) in Section 3) within the raised relative “head” in [Spec, CP] of the relative clause, but it does not reach the clause-external DP. There is thus no subextraction from [Spec, CP], and the construction is O.K.

(46)
a.
Unamiprimaqueesmaestra
amycousinthatisteacher

‘A cousin of mine that is a teacher.’

b.

[DP [D una] [CP [XP mij prima tj]i [C’ que ti es maestra]]]

(47)
a.
Aquelsucaudilloquelosesforçava
thattheirchiefthatthemencouraged-3sg

‘That chief of theirs that encouraged them.’

b.

[DP [D aquel] [CP [XP suj caudillo tj]i [C’ que ti los esforçava]]]

6 Extending the analysis to other Romance languages [24]

In this final section, I will apply my proposal to data from other Romance languages. First, my analysis of the incompatibility of prenominal possessives and restrictive relatives in current general Spanish (see Section 4) naturally extends over to French, where a prenominal possessive is also a determiner. As illustrated in (48), in French, as in Spanish, DPs including both a determiner possessive and a restrictive relative clause are anomalous, which can be equally attributed to a violation of the condition sanctioning subextraction from [Spec, CP]. [25]

(48)
a.
??J’aiperdusonlivrequej’ailul’andernier.
I.havelosthisbookthatI.havereadthe.yearlast

??I have lost his book that I read last year.’

b.
??J’aivutamaisonquiplaîtàJean.
I.haveseenyourhousethatpleasestoJohn

??I have seen your house that John likes.’

Second, as shown in (49), in languages in which the prenominal possessive is preceded by a determiner, like Catalan, Italian or Portuguese, a possessive following the indefinite article co-occurs with a restrictive relative clause. [26] The analysis in (46b) for this pattern in Old Spanish (and in some dialects of American Spanish) applies to the well-formed Catalan, Italian and Portuguese data in (49) as well.

(49)
a.
Intentolocalitzarunmeucompanyqueemvaajudarmolt.
try-1sgfindamymatethatmegoeshelpmuch

‘I am trying to find a mate of mine that helped me a lot.’

b.
Glielodaròaunmioamicochehaivistoieri.
him.itwill.give-1sgtoamyfriendthathave-1sg seen yesterday

‘I will give it to a friend of mine that I saw yesterday.’

c.
UmaminhaamigaquemoraemS. Pauloélinguista.
amyfriendthatlivesinS. Pauloislinguist

‘A friend of mine that lives in S. Paulo is a linguist.’

Finally, as illustrated in (50a) for Catalan, in these Romance languages, the combination of a restrictive relative clause and a prenominal possessive preceded by the definite article is deviant, as pointed out in Brucart (1994, 2002). Nevertheless, the grammaticality of this combination improves when a restrictive modifier is added to the noun in the relative “head” (50b), and the construction is acceptable in a contrastive setting (50c): [27]

(50)
a.
??Elseullibrequevamllegirelcurspassatésinteressant.
thehisbookthatgo.1plreadtheyearlastisinteresting

??His book that we read last year is interesting.’

b.
?Elseullibredefísicaquevamllegirelcurspassatés
thehisbookofphysicsthatgo.1plreadtheyearlastis
interessant.
interesting

?His book on physics that we read last year is interesting.’

c.
Elseullibrequevamllegirelcurspassatésmésinteressant
thehisbookthatgo.1plreadtheyearlastismoreinteresting
queelseullibrequehavíemllegitelcursanterior.
thanthehisbookthathad.1plreadtheyearbefore

‘His book that we read last year is more interesting than his book that we had read the year before.’

Note that the paradigm in (50) exactly parallels that of the Spanish construction with a determiner possessive and a restrictive relative clause in (18) (see Section 4), repeated in (51):

(51)
a.
??Sulibroquemeprestóesinteresante.
hisbookthatmelent-3sgisinteresting

??His book that he lent me is interesting.’

b.
?SulibrodeCortázarquemeprestóesinteresante.
hisbookofCortázarthatmelent-3sgisinteresting

?His book by Cortázar that he lent me is interesting.’

c.
Sulibro(de Cortázar)quemeprestóesmásinteresante
hisbook(of Cortázar)thatmelent-3sgismoreinteresting
quesulibro(de Borges)quenoquisoprestarme.
thanhisbook(of Borges)thatnotwanted-3sglend.me

‘His book (by Cortázar) that he lent me is more interesting than his book (by Borges) that he didn’t want to lend me.’

This fact can be accounted for, in my view, by analyzing anomalous Romance data like the one in (50a) along the lines of my account of the corresponding Spanish construction in (51a). I would thus like to argue that in the [definite article + possessive] sequence of Catalan, Italian and Portuguese (e.g., Cat. el seu llibre ‘the his book’), the article is an expletive filling the D0 position, and the possessive rises to [Spec, DP] at LF. Therefore, in the deviant Catalan example in (50a), the possessive, which is pronounced in [Spec, IP] of the relative “head” (see Section 3), covertly moves out of [Spec, CP], and the construction is ruled out by the restriction sanctioning subextraction from [Spec, CP]. As in Spanish, given the interpretive nature of this restriction (see Section 4), the construction in (50a) gets better when restrictive modifiers are added to the noun (50b), contributing to the identification of the individual the DP refers to, and is fully acceptable in a contrastive context (50c).

The insight behind this proposal is that the sequence formed by the definite article and a prenominal possessive in Catalan-like languages constitutes a CHAIN (in Chomsky’s 1986 sense) that semantically corresponds to the determiner possessive in Spanish-like languages, so that the interpretation of this sequence is determined by the possessive, and not by the article, which lacks substantive semantic content. [28] Independent evidence for this idea comes from paradigms like the ones illustrated in (52) and (53): [29]

(52)
a.
Nit’imagineselsllibresquevacomprar.
noryou.imagine-2sgthebooksthatgoesbuy

‘You can’t imagine how many/what kind of books he bought.’

b.
*Nit’imagineselsseusllibresquevacomprar.
noryou.imagine-2sgthehisbooksthatgoesbuy
(53)
a.
*Aquestapropostatambéelsproblemes.
thisproposalalsohastheproblems
b.
Aquestapropostatambéelsseusproblemes.
thisproposalalsohastheitsproblems

‘This proposal also has its problems.’

In (52a), the Catalan article has a quantitative or qualitative interpretation, as expressed in the English translation. In (52b), the presence of the prenominal possessive makes it impossible for the article to convey this meaning, and the sentence is ungrammatical. This shows that it is the possessive, and not the article, that determines the interpretive properties of a DP introduced by the definite article and a possessive in Catalan-like languages.

As for the paradigm in (53), concerning emphatic possessives (see Section 4), the sentence in (53a) is ill-formed due to the definiteness effect affecting the complement position of the verb tenir ‘to have’. The very same sentence is, however, well-formed if the nominal expression in object position includes an emphatic possessive, as in (53b). This clearly indicates that the article in a sequence like el seus problemes ‘the his problems’ in (53b) cannot have a definite interpretation, and must be an expletive. Otherwise, this sentence should also be ruled out, just as (53a) is.

7 Conclusions

In this paper, I have analyzed a number of constructions including a possessive pronoun and a relative clause in Spanish (and in Romance more generally). The main conclusions to be drawn from this research are the following. First, adopting a raising analysis for both determiner possessives and restrictive relatives, I have argued that the incompatibility of determiner possessives and restrictive relative clauses in Spanish (and French) is due to the violation of an interpretive condition sanctioning subextraction from [Spec, CP]. Second, I have proposed that, in all well-formed Romance constructions in which a possessive co-occurs with a relative clause, subextraction from [Spec, CP] does not take place. And third, I have finally claimed that my proposal can also explain the anomalous status of the Catalan, Italian or Portuguese [Art[+def]+ Poss + N + restrictive relative] pattern, under the assumption that, in the sequence formed by the definite article and a prenominal possessive, the article is an expletive and the possessive rises to the DP domain at LF.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Ángel Gallego, Francesc Roca, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the content of this paper. Research for this study has been supported by a grant to the project FFI2014-56968-C4-3-P.

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Published Online: 2015-9-23
Published in Print: 2017-5-1

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston