Linguistics colloquium: Gabi Danon

21/11/2017 - 14:00 - 15:30

Gabi Danon, Bar Ilan University

Title: The Hebrew genitive alternation: Empirical data and theoretical questions

Abstract: Modern Hebrew has three types of genitive constructions: šel genitives (1), construct state (2), and double genitives (3):

(1) ha-tmuna šel ha-yeled
the-picture of the-boy
'the picture of the boy'

(2) tmunat ha-yeled
picture.CS the-boy
'the picture of the boy'

(3) tmunat-o šel ha-yeled
picture.CS-POSS.3MS of the-boy
'the picture of the boy'

Generative works over the last few decades have focused mostly on deriving the word order and hierarchical relations of these three genitives, as well as on deriving their possible interpretations. However, very often these analyses seem to overgenerate, such that speaker judgment on genitive acceptability is frequently lower than what would be predicted on the basis of those analyses. In this talk I argue that the alternation between these three genitive types is subject to multiple independent constraints that cannot be reduced to single unified factor. I discuss evidence for weak (soft, violable) constraints from semantics, morphology and processing, as well as lexical idiosyncrasies that must all be taken into consideration in order to properly characterize the full range of grammaticality observed in this domain. We then discuss some implications of these facts for a theory of Hebrew genitives.


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