A Case Study of Construct State Nominals: Extending the Predication Approach

in Brill's Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics
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This paper deals with a class of non-canonical construct state nominals, whose annex is non-nominal. More specifically, it examines the properties these non-canonical constructs share with canonical construct state nominals, including the absence of overt definiteness marking on the head noun. Non-canonical construct state nominals also differ from canonical construct states in imposing a restriction on the categorial nature of the annex. I argue that a predication structure (Den Dikken 2006, Ouhalla 2011) underlies non-canonical constructs, where the annex is the subject of predication and the head, a ‘minimal NP’, is the predicate, which raises over its subject. This analysis, which seems to invert the expected subject-predicate relation within construct states, is shown to account for a number of new observations related to the structural properties of non-canonical constructs. Non-canonical construct states alternate with constructions where the head noun does not appear in construct form and can take the definite marker. I argue that those alternate constructions are in fact derived from a different initial predication structure, where the head noun is in fact the subject of predication. Being a ‘minimal NP’, the head of non-canonical constructs cannot bear definiteness marking, under the assumption that the definite article is the overt expression of D[Def]. Therefore, the account for the distribution of overt definite marking is reduced to whether the outer D dominating the whole construct state is overtly expressed. I argue that a definite outer D is not expressed in non-canonical construct states due to the Doubly-filled Comp Filter (DFCF) generalized to specifier-head configurations, as in Koopman (2000).

A Case Study of Construct State Nominals: Extending the Predication Approach

in Brill's Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics




Ouwayda (2014) argues that the -e/-a suffix is also a morphological classifier as exemplified in (i). In Standard Arabic the suffix -a can appear as part of the broken plural form of some masculine nouns as seen in (i). Such nouns will have a construct form in -at like feminine singular nouns. Thus we have the contrast between (iia-b) and (iic).


Ouhalla (2009) adapts in this context Ackema and Neeleman’s (2003) more general feature suppression rule which operates under agreement. A schematic representation of this operation is given in (i) where curly brackets represent the edges of (small) phonological phrases. (i) { … [AF1F2] … [BF1F3] …} → { … [AF2] … [BF1F3] …}


Recall that in Ouhalla’s (2011) predication analysis of construct state nominals the possessum and the possessor remain in situ within the predication structure PP as shown in (35b). Despite there being a XP boundary between the possessum and the possessor they end up in the same phonological phrase in construct state nominals because the mapping to prosodic structure includes WRAP-XP (Truckenbrodt 1999) which has the effect of wrapping all constituents within a lexical phrase into one phonological phrase. Hence the representation in (35b). As I show all prosodic accounts of the absence of definiteness marking on the construct head noun are based on the idea that this feature is recoverable from the definiteness of the annex. Non-canonical construct state nominals with a clausal noun complement in the annex strongly challenge this idea.


Ouhalla (2006) analyzes the relative marker illi as an expression of definiteness and assigns it to the category D. Therefore Ouhalla (2006) argues relative clauses in Arabic in fact project DPs. This is in contrast with languages like English where relative clauses are CPs. In English for example relative clauses are introduced by that the same complementizer that introduces other types of embedded clauses.


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