The syntax of partitives

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


This dissertation is a study of the syntax of partitives. The main goal is to characterise this type of nominals and provide an analysis that accounts for its particular properties but at the same time reflects the similarities with other indefinite non-partitive nominals (i.e. quantitatives). The exhaustive comparison between partitives and quantitatives turns out very useful for determining the properties of the former, and it becomes clear from it that these two types of nominals have more in common than it seems at first sight or has been considered in the literature.

In chapter 1 the properties of partitives are described and discussed in the light of previous analyses and data (mainly from Catalan but also other languages, especially Romance and Germanic languages), and a line of explanation is suggested.

In chapter 2 two constructions are thoroughly studied that have been considered as partitives in the literature given that they look very similar and it is solidly argued that they are in fact quantitatives. These are nominals in which the quantifier is followed by a noun as in "dos llibres d'aquells" ('two books of those') and indefinite nominals that express partition through the preposition "entre" ('among') such as "una novel·la d'entre els llibres que em vas deixar" ('a novel among the books you lent me'). The conclusions in this chapter are very relevant for the analysis defended here: partitives have a single-noun structure and only preposition "de" (but not "entre") form partitives.

In chapter 3 a unitary analysis for partitives and quantitatives is presented and defended according to which quantifiers are lexical elements that select a noun (projected into a DP in partitives or NP in quantitatives) and that are generated in a low position in the nominal structure. The preposition "de" has the same status and role in partitives and in quantitatives (una mica de pa 'a bit of bread', molts de dies 'many days'): it is a functional category that licenses the noun. The quantifier moves to the left in parallel with other cases of inversion in nominals (i.e. qualitative predicate inversion: l'idiota d'en Joan 'the idiot of Joan'). The advantage of this analysis is that the same basic structure accounts too for predicational uses of quantifiers in the clausal domain --as predicates in copular sentences (My students are many) and as secondary predicates (Els colons arribaven a milers 'Colons arrived by the thousand')-- or even within nominals such as "we two" or "the three books". The differences among all these constructions derive mainly from the lexical features quantifiers have and from the type of nominal projection they select (NP or DP).
Date of Award13 Jul 2010
Original languageEnglish
Supervisor Luis Javier Eguren Gutiérrez (Thesis board president), Norbert Corver (Vocal), Ana Bartra Kaufmann (Director) & María del Carme Picallo Soler (Thesis board secretary)

Cite this