Sprachwissenschaft  |  Kolloquien

Adjectival Inflection as Diagnostic for Structural Position in the Icelandic Noun Phrase

Donnerstag, 19. April 2018
15.15 – 16.45 Uhr



Alexander Pfaff University of Oslo/ILOS

Inside and Outside the Icelandic DP – Some Notes on Adjectival Inflection

Icelandic adjectives come with two sets of adjectival inflection: weak and strong. Strongly inflected adjectives occur in predicative contexts, or adnominally in in- definite noun phrases; weakly inflected ones only occur adnominally in definite noun phrases. There is, however, one context that is not obviously captured by this characterization; consider the following contrast:

(1) a. gul.i bíll - inn b. gul.ur bíll - inn yellow.WK car - the yellow.STR car - the

Both noun phrases in (1) are definite as indicated by the suffixed article. Thus the strong inflection in the b-example is unexpected. Moreover, it has been noted that this morpho-syntactic difference has semantic concomitants:

(2) If a noun phrase of the type [“the yellow car”] is not meant to identify ‘the yellow car’, but only to identify a car, which happens to be yellow, Icelandic marks this with the strong form of the adjective. Compare the restrictive adjective in [(1a)] to the non-restrictive one in [(1b)]. (Delsing 1993:132, fn. 25)

This paper claims that the contrast in (1) is primarily a structural one that entails the properties of the respective adjectives, both morphological (weak vs. strong) and semantic (restrictive vs. non-restr.). More specifically, I argue that (i) weak inflection is triggered/licensed in a specific context, whereas strong inflection is merely the default spellout (i.e. the elsewhere case):

(3) a. Weak inflection is triggered by a c-commanding definiteness morpheme/article b. Stronginflectionoccursiffweakinflectionisnottriggered

(ii) the strong adjective in (1b) is merged outside DP, hence outside the c- command domain of the definite article, thus weak inflection is not triggered and the default strong inflection occurs. (iii) this structural assumption has semantic consequences: being merged outside DP, the strong adjective must be assumed to combine with a referential expression (of type ). This automatically captures the often observed lack of restrictivity, cf. (2), and other semantic properties of noun phrases like (1b).

Delsing, L.-O. (1993). The Internal Structure of Noun Phrases in the Scandina- vian Languages. PhD thesis, University of Lund