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Abstract

Classifier constructions in English such as three glasses of water are ambiguous between an individuating reading, in which the DP denotes plural objects consisting of three individual glasses of water, and a measure reading, in which the DP denotes quantities of water which equal the quantity contained in three glasses. A plausible semantic account of the contrast has been given in Landman 2004. In this account, on the individuating reading, the nominal glasses is the head of the noun phrase and has its expected semantic interpretation, while in the measure reading, three glasses is a modifier expression modifying the nominal head of the phrase water. However, there is little direct syntactic evidence for these constructions in English. Modern Hebrew, however, provides support for Landman's analysis of the dual function of classifier heads. There are two ways to express three glasses of water in Modern Hebrew. The first is via the free genitive construction where a nominal head in absolute form takes a prepositional phrase complement as in šaloš kosot šel mayim, and the second using the construct state as in šaloš kosot mayim. The first has only the individuating reading, while the second is ambiguous between the individuating and measure readings. We show that only in the construct state are the syntactic conditions fulfilled which allow the classifier + numeral to be interpreted as a (complex) modifier of the syntactically embedded noun.

In: Brill's Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics
In: Small Clauses
Editor:
This book explores licensing theory and its implications for a theory of syntax. It brings together a series of new papers which focus on developing a constrained set of licensing mechanisms relating elements in a syntactic representation, and on the different properties of lexical and functional heads as licenses of complements and specifiers. Directed toward an audience of syntacticians and those interested in the applications of syntactic theory, it demonstrates the expanding explanatory parts of this approach to syntax.
In: Linguistic Studies on Biblical Hebrew
In: Perspectives on Phrase Structure: Heads and Licensing
In: Perspectives on Phrase Structure: Heads and Licensing
In: Perspectives on Phrase Structure: Heads and Licensing
In: Perspectives on Phrase Structure: Heads and Licensing
In: Perspectives on Phrase Structure: Heads and Licensing

Abstract

Construct phrases are nominal expressions consisting of a noun in the construct state, termed the construct, and an immediately adjacent nominal phrase, the annex. Biblical Hebrew has four kinds of construct phrases containing numerals: phrases with a definite nominal annex, complex numeral phrases, approximative phrases and phrases with an indefinite nominal annex. The first three constructions are found in Modern Hebrew, but not the fourth. In this paper we provide semantic interpretations for the four numeral construct phrase types, accounting for these constructions within a theoretical approach to the cross-linguistic properties of numeral phrases. Adopting the semantic analysis in Rothstein (2013, 2017b), which treats numerals as a type of property expression in the sense of Chierchia (1985), we show that the four constructions fall into two groups. In the first group, containing the complex numeral and the indefinite measure phrase, the construct numeral is an argument of a function. In the second group, containing the definite numeral phrase and the approximative, the construct numeral is a predicate that expresses intersectional modification. The numeral has a different semantic status in each group: as an argument, the numeral is a saturated property expression designating an individual, while as a modifier it is unsaturated. It is shown that definite numeral construct phrases and approximative phrases can be viewed as types of classifier expressions. The data and interpretations presented in the paper demonstrate that Biblical Hebrew numerals share fundamental semantic characteristics with numeral constructions in other languages, despite having various syntactic properties which are specific to this language.

In: Brill's Journal of Afroasiatic Languages and Linguistics