Author Topic: Argument-Adjunct Asymmetry and Exhaustivity  (Read 1220 times)

Offline Morphosyntax

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Argument-Adjunct Asymmetry and Exhaustivity
« on: February 26, 2019, 03:43:16 PM »
In Malay, complementiser 'yang' surfaces when a DP constituent obtains exhaustive focus.

Dia   yang   mati
3.sg  COMP die
HE died.

It does not surface when an adjunct is focalised.

Semalam  (*yang)   dia   mati
Yesterday (*COMP) 3.SG die
YESTERDAY he died.

It does not seem logical that adjuncts cannot be exhaustive. Is there anything in the linguistics literature that discusses this?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Argument-Adjunct Asymmetry and Exhaustivity
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2019, 12:20:36 PM »
I'd like a little more information before commenting here:

1. Why does C appear in second position in the clause? Are these embedded examples, or is this C appearing in matrix clauses? (This is a C element structurally parallel to English "that", correct?)

2. What precisely does "exhaustive" mean? Is it aspectual (=completive, perfective) or more about the actual semantics of finality/consumption? And could you use an adverb that has this meaning explicitly such as the word "exhaustively" itself (or "completely", "finally", or "already", etc.)?

So I'm not sure about the answer, but more information from those two questions should at least lead you in the right direction.
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Offline Morphosyntax

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Re: Argument-Adjunct Asymmetry and Exhaustivity
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2019, 06:33:55 AM »
The complementiser is spelt out when arguments are focus-moved to SpecCP. It's the element that introduces subordinate clause, like 'that' in English. The interpretation of this focus construction is comparable to a cleft in English.

Hanya Ali yang   dia   tumbuk.
only    Ali COMP 3.SG punch
'It was ONLY ALI whom he punched.'

"Hanya Ali" in the example above is moved from the object position, and "yang" surfaces as the head of C.

"Exhaustive" focus is the effect you get when there is a set of alternatives, but only one choice is permitted, e.g. in the use of focus operator 'only'. All the other alternatives are negated.

Even when 'sahaja/hanya/cuma' (all meaning "only") is used, the complementiser surfaces with arguments only.

Hanya semalam   dia   tumbuk Ali.
Only    yesterday 3.SG punch   Ali
'Only yesterday he punched Ali.'

Offline Daniel

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Re: Argument-Adjunct Asymmetry and Exhaustivity
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2019, 03:36:48 AM »
Well, a casual explanation might be that because adjuncts can already move around somewhat freely, there's no need to focus them in Spec,CP. This might mean it's also possible to do so (so the complementizer could show up), or that it just isn't used like that, although it wouldn't explain why it is strictly ungrammatical. Maybe a "Last Resort" explanation? Are you sure that even with the right kind of emphatic intonation it isn't possible to get this?

In English, Do-support is said to be a Last Resort operation when tense must be spelled out without attaching to the lexical verb, but we can get an emphatic reading as in "He DID read the book." Without that emphasis it is "ungrammatical" but it is possible to generate, even as a Last Resort, if there is emphasis.
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