The Universal DP Hypothesis and Binding - The Case of Serbo-Croatian (Syntax Colloquium)

Miloje Despic (University of Connecticut)
Event time: 
Friday, October 30, 2009 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Event description: 

There has been a lot of controversy in the literature regarding the structure of the NP in Serbo-Croatian (SC) and in Slavic generally. On one hand, authors like Progovac (1998) and Basic (2004) support the idea of the so-called Universal DP Hypothesis (UDPH) by assuming that all languages, including article-less languages like SC, have overtly or covertly realized DP. This line of research is in accordance with Longobardi’s (1994) assumptions that DP is required for argument-hood. Authors like Boskovic (2005), (2008), Corver (1990), and Zlatic (1997), on the other hand, adopt the view that languages without articles/determiners, like SC, do not project DP but rather have traditional NP projections. In this presentation I follow the second group of authors and I argue for the lack of DP in Serbo-Croatian.

I present a series of arguments from binding in Serbo-Croatian that strongly suggests that DP is not a universal projection. I discuss SC binding facts, and use it as a testing ground for checking predictions these two approaches make with respect to binding. I argue that only a view that assumes the lack of DP in SC, and allows prenominal modifiers to c-command out of their noun phrases can handle SC binding facts in a consistent way. In light of this discussion I also examine implications this proposal has for the theory of binding. In particular, I argue that binding conditions cannot be dispensed with, or reduced to simple economy principles. Instead, I propose a system that employs both core syntactic binding conditions and economy principles, but which makes careful distinctions between the two. I also discuss the notion of anti-subject orientation of pronouns and argue that it should not be treated as an independent principle, but rather as a consequence of the complementary distribution of pronouns and reflexives, and the strict subject orientation of reflexives. Crucially, I contend that Condition C should be defined as in Lasnik (1989).

In addition, I re-examine the case of certain noun/pronoun asymmetries in SC, which was originally addressed by Progovac (1998), and is considered as probably the most compelling empirical argument for DP in SC. I contend that the relevant phenomenon follows straightforwardly from independently motivated properties of SC, key among which are clitic movement and syntax and semantics of intensifiers, and that it does not necessitate positing a null DP. In essence, I argue that the relevant phenomenon does not arise as a consequence of the pronoun’s movement to D, but is triggered by the head-movement of a clitic to a phrase projected by an intensifying adjective. The claim is that after the clitic pronoun adjoins to the head of the intensifier phrase, it is expressed as strong in the post-syntactic component, due to the general constraint that clitics as prosodically dependent elements cannot be associated with focus, which generally requires prosodic prominence. I show that with this assumption, we may explain why only pronouns end up preceding the intensifier, whereas reflexives and nouns, which do not have clitic forms, obligatorily follow it. Finally, I also show that the presence vs. absence of the intensifier projection correlates with binding differences exactly as predicted by this approach, and can hardly be accounted for under the Universal DP Hypothesis.

Event Type: 
Lunch Talks