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Conference Information

Full Title: Definiteness, Possessivity and Exhaustivity: Formalizing Synchronic and Diachronic Connections

Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Start Date: 10-Sep-2017 - 13-Sep-2017
Contact: Natalia Serdobolskaya Alexandra Simonenko
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: Many formal semantic and typological studies have addressed the relation between possession and definiteness, where definiteness encompasses uniqueness- and antecedent-based reference resolution or weak and strong definiteness in the sense of Schwarz (2009).

From the point of view of morphosyntax, there is a typological split between languages that allow possessive and definiteness markers to co-occur within one and the same DP, and those in which the markers in question are in complementary distribution (for a rich typological survey see Haspelmath 1999).

On the semantic side, languages again split in that some have markers of possession that impose an exhaustive quantification on the domain denoted by the possessee nominal (in the sense that the resulting DP is normally taken to denote the totality of individuals with the relevant nominal property related to a given possessor), while other languages do not have such possessives.

West Germanic pre-nominal possessors, French pre-nominal possessors, and Hebrew and Arabic construct state possessives (e.g. Heller 2002, Dobrovie-Sorin 2004, Barker 2011) all encode exhaustive quantification. In languages and language groups such as Italian, Spanish, Slavic, Finno-Ugric, Austronesian (Chung 2008), there is no possessive configuration with an exhaustivity effect.

Moreover, there is evidence for the typological alignment of the morphosyntactic and semantic splits identified above. That is, on the one hand, it is precisely in those cases where possessive markers trigger exhaustive quantification that they are in complementary distribution with definiteness markers; on the other, languages which do not have exhaustivity-triggering possessives, seem to mark, if at all, specificity (in the sense of Enç (1991); partitive type in terms of von Heusinger 2002) rather than definiteness.

The two types of systems – with article/possessive complementary distribution and exhaustive possessives and with articles/possessive cooccurrence and no exhaustive possessives – are not impermeable, however. For instance, Medieval French went from a system with the pre-nominal possessives co-occurring with the articles, to a system where the two series of markers are in complementary distribution, and where the pre-nominal possessives have an exhaustive interpretation.

The workshop focusses on answering the following questions:

- How much typological evidence is there for the alignment between (non)-co-occurrence of definiteness and possessive markers and possessor (non)exhaustivity?
- What are the possible semantic explanations of the ban on possessive and definiteness markers' co-occurrence in light of the alignment of morphosyntactic and semantic splits?
- What is the inventory of syntactico-semantic elements that would allow to account for the independence of exhaustive quantification and possessive relation cross-linguistically?
- What are the possible inventories of possessive constructions in languages in terms of (non)exhausivity?
- How much diachronic evidence is there for the passage from non-exhaustive to exhaustive possessive configurations?
- How can such transitions be formally modeled?
- How can we formally model the evolutionary developments leading from the direct anaphora and possession markers to the definiteness and specificity (partitivity) markers respectively?
Linguistic Subfield: Semantics; Syntax
LL Issue: 27.4687

This is a session of the following meeting:
50th Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea

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