The mediated approach to aspectual fi insertion

Dans le document Event building, selection and non-canonical Case: fi insertion in Tunisian Arabic (Page 113-135)

Chapter 3: fi insertion and non-canonical Case

3.6. The mediated approach to aspectual fi insertion

The distribution of aspectual fi provides supporting evidence in favor of the hypothesis that fi is categorized as a preposition. The relevant empirical evidence illustrates that fi arguments cannot occur in the complement position of another preposition as described in McNeil (2017).

McNeil’s corpus-based research shows that a preposition selected by a predicate and aspectual fi are in complementary distribution, provided that the predicate occurs in the appropriate syntactic context, e.g. progressive. For instance, the predicate lwwaž selects ʕla and together they mean ‘to look for’ something. The preposition ʕla is a locative preposition of place as in means ‘on’; therefore, based on the assumptions laid out in section 3.5, we expect ʕla to be structurally similar to fi and to subcategorize for a DP (see chapter 2, section 3.3).

McNeil notices that whenever the verb occurs in a progressive construction, either ʕla or fi can precede the DP argument and, both fi and ʕla occur in felicitous progressive sentences, see (38)a and (38)b:

(38) a. (qāʕed) nlawwiž fī-bint la-ḥlēl prog look.imp fi-girl the-lawful

‘I am looking for a good girl (to marry).’

b. (qāʕed) nlawwiž ʕla-bint la-ḥlēl prog look.imp for-girl the-lawful

‘I am looking for a good girl (to marry).’

(Adapted from McNeil 2017: 11 (35))

The two prepositions, however, cannot co-occur. As example (39) illustrates, in fact, the combination of the two elements results in an ungrammatical construction:

(39) *(qāʕed) nlawwiž ʕla fī-bint la-ḥlēl prog look.imp for fi-girl the-lawful

The ungrammatical status of (39) suggests that fi and ʕla compete for the same syntactic slot, a fact that we can easily account for under the assumption that the two elements are both prepositions of the same type. Since a place preposition cannot select another PP as its complement, it appears to be the case that aspectual fi and the competing ʕla are indeed members of the same class.

3.6.2. Interpretation of aspectual fi

Brahim (2007) refers to aspectual fi as “marquage prépositionnel locatif7” (ibid. p 95) suggesting that aspectual fi should not be treated as a separate particle but as a possible use of the homophonous locative preposition.

7 i.e. “prepositional locative marking”.

I do not assume his position since the interpretative properties of locative fi and aspectual fi are not the same. I will first address the interpretative properties of aspectual fi and locative fi and, successively, I will put forward a proposal on how to account for such differences on the basis of Koopman’s principle that a preposition’s distribution, and I would like to add, its interpretation, follow from the amount of functional structure present within a PP.

As discussed in the previous subsection aspectual fi occurs in complementary distribution with prepositions selected by certain verbs like the already mentioned case of the verb nlawwiž ʕla (cf. example (38)a). These verbs are similar to English phrasal verbs in Radford’s (1988) sense, meaning that they present a preposition before an argument interpreted as the theme of the verb.

Aspectual fi and the preposition ʕla are in complementary distribution and they both give access to the same progressive interpretations in (38), in spite of the fact that in other contexts, they can both have another interpretation. Aspectual fi, as we know from the lengthy discussion in chapter 2, is homophonous to the preposition fi expressing central coincidence, while the preposition ʕla in other constructions is the equivalent of the prepositions ‘on’ or ‘at’ in English, as in (40) and (41):

(40) dur ʕl-y-yemīn turn.imper on-the-right

‘Turn right.’

(41) ʕla ras ed-dawla at head the-country

‘At the head of the state.’

Example (38)a illustrates by means of its translation that ʕla cannot be assigned with a clear semantic meaning when it occurs in a phrasal verb, unlike locative ʕla (i.e. ‘on’, ‘at’); this use of ʕla in nlawwiž ʕla appears to be a semantically vacuous, just like the English preposition ‘for’ in

‘look for Mary’ does not have the same meaning as ‘for’ in ‘written for Mary’. The same reasoning applies to aspectual fi in (38)b, since in this case the semantic contribution provided by the element fi is hardly identifiable as locative.

Thus, aspectual fi and ʕla in phrasal verbs both derive from locative prepositions, although they are not truly locative since they clearly do not describe any location, nor ‘inside’ nor ‘upon, at’. Their shared absence of clear locative meaning is perspicuously illustrated by the fact that they can be swapped in progressive contexts without altering the interpretation of the sentence (cf. (38)a-b).

The facts just discussed suggest that certain place prepositions, e.g. aspectual fi and ʕla in phrasal verbs, are somewhat grammaticalized, and do not display the entire meaning that the same preposition has in other syntactic contexts. Their distribution, in fact, is not the same as the homophonous locative preposition. The interpretation of fi and its complement in relation to the context in which they occur provides another piece of evidence in support of the different properties of locative and aspectual fi. The contrast illustrated by examples (42) and (43) shows that locative and aspectual fi present different semantic properties which correlate with their distribution:

(42) semi qāʕed yēkel fī-šqala Semi prog eat.imp in-bowl

‘Semi is eating in a bowl.’

(43) semi qāʕed yēkel fī -l-kosksi Semi prog eat.imp fi-the-couscous

‘Semi is eating couscous.’

The DP preceded by fi in (42) forms with the preceding particle a locative PP interpreted as an adjunct, while the DP preceded by fi in (43) is understood as the direct object of the previous predicate and not as an adjunct.

Examples (42) and (43) show that the reading and the syntactic structures accessible in the presence of locative or aspectual fi are mutually exclusive. On the one hand, in (42) the non-edible object šqala ‘bowl’ triggers the locative interpretation of fi since it is plausible to be eating ‘in’

the container but it is not plausible to be eating the container itself. On the other hand, fi is followed by a [+edible] noun phrase in sentence (43) and this DP is understood as the object of the sentence for the obvious opposite reasons. Therefore, we have a correlation between the aspectual and the locative type of fi on one side and the semantic and syntactic function attributed to the following DP on the other. In one case we have a fi-marked theme-direct object, while in the other case fi introduces a locative adjunct of central coincidence.

Thus, since aspectual fi does not convey the locative meaning proper of locative fi, we must assume that the two types of fi cannot be reduced to the same item. The problem we face at this point is in what ways are the two particles different.

One way to look at the issue is Koopman’s idea that prepositions with different distributional properties are prepositions that have different functional structures despite their similarity at PF.

I adopt this view and propose that aspectual fi, unlike prepositional fi is a place preposition but it is not a locative one. By this I mean that aspectual fi, but also ʕla in phrasal verbs, is a preposition that projects up to the first functional layer in the functional domain. According to Den Dikken (2010), a preposition assigns oblique Case as long as it projects the first layer of the extended projection; coherently with this proposal, I claim that aspectual fi assigns Case. Thus, aspectual fi is grammaticalized in Meillet’s (1912) sense, meaning that it is reinterpreted under a new category, namely AspP(PLACE) according to the structure in (37), with newness that simply refers to

“new form for old content” (Kiparsky 2012, 15).

3.6.3. Interaction with Case licensing

The interaction between Case licensing and the insertion of aspectual fi brings additional support to the hypothesis that aspectual fi is appropriately categorized as a preposition. The relevant fact is that aspectual fi can only precede nominal constituents but not clausal ones, a distribution that matches this in English prepositions as in Stowell’s classic description (1981):

(44) a. He blamed it [on [DP bill’s being too strict]].

b. *He blamed it [on [CP that bill was too strict]].

(Stowell 1981: 149 (68a) & (69a))

Stowell proposes that Case licensing regulates the syntactic selectional properties of all heads, including prepositions. In his approach, constituents are reduced to two classes set apart by the Case Resistance Principle (CRP), summarized as:

“Case may not be assigned to a category bearing a Case-assigning feature”

(ibid. p. 146).

In this system syntactic classes are either Case-bearing or Case-assigning and their licensing properties are self-evident. DPs and infinitival sentences belong to the first class while PPs and CPs belong to the second one.

Assuming that this system applies universally, under the hypothesis that aspectual fi is a preposition that licensed Case, we expect it to select only direct objects that can be Case marked (DPs) and not to select objects belonging to categories that cannot receive Case: CPs or PPs.

Example (39) in section Erreur ! Source du renvoi introuvable. shows that a PP argument (i.e.

ʕla-bint ‘for a girl’) cannot be preceded by aspectual fi even in the cases in which the appropriate syntactic conditions for the insertion of fi are met. The example is copied below as (45) for ease of reference:

(45) *(qāʕed) nlawwiž ʕla fī-bint la-ḥlēl prog look.imp for fi-girl the-lawful

Thus, the ungrammatical status of the configuration in (45) can be explained as a violation of CRP, since aspectual fi bears a Case assigning feature and so does the other preposition.

As for CP arguments, the double nature of the Tunisian item illi makes it possible to show that they do not allow the insertion of aspectual fi, as expected under the hypothesis that this particle is a preposition. Tunisian illi similar to English ‘that’ is both a declarative complementizer and a relative pronoun. When illi is a declarative complementizer, it cannot be fi-marked.

Conversely, when illi is a relative pronoun introducing a free relative sentence fi can precede it, deriving the complex form f-illi.

Free relatives in English can occur in argument position just as any DP constituent does (Bresnan & Grimshaw 1978):

(46) a. I’ll buy [DP whatever you sell]

b. I’ll buy [DP the turkey]

(Bresnan and Grimshaw 1978: 335 (30a-b))

Example (46) shows that free relatives and simple nominal phrases share the same distributional properties.

Free relatives and simple DP phrases occur in complementary distribution also in Tunisian, see (47) and (48):

(47) qāʕed nsaddeq [DP f-illi yeqūlū fī-h en-nes]

prog believe.imp fi-relpro say.imp fi-it the-people

‘I trust what people are saying.’

(48) qāʕed nsaddeq [DP fī-klēm-ek]

prog believe.imp fi-words-yours

‘I trust your words.’

Example (47) shows that a free relative is fi-marked when it occurs in the same context as fi-marked nominal constituent like in (48). Notice that instances of f-illi such as the one in (47) are unmistakably cases of aspectual fi since their occurrence is subject to the same syntactic restrictions as fi-DP objects, e.g. the presence of progressive qāʕed:

(49) a. saddaqt klēm-ek believe.perf words-yours

‘I trusted your words.’

b. *saddaqt fī-klēm-ek believe.perf fi-words-yours

(50) a. saddaqt illi qālū-ū en-nes believe.perf relpro say.sffx-it the-people

‘I trusted what people said.’

b. *saddaqt f-illi qālū-ū en-nes believe.perf fi-relpro say.imp-it the-people

As the above examples illustrate, if the conditions for aspectual fi insertion are not met, for example in the case of a perfective sentence, f-illi insertion is blocked, (50)b, on a par with the other instances of aspectual fi on a DP, as in (49)b. Thus, we can conclude that any object DP, despite its syntactic complexity, allows fi-licensing under the appropriate structural conditions.

Conversely, declarative illi shows that no fi-licensing is required or allowed when the direct object is a CP, see (51)b, although the context meets the conditions for aspectual fi insertion:

(51) a. brahim qāʕed yeqūl [CP illi semi yeqra fī-dārs-ū]

Ibrahim prog say.imp that Semi study.imp fi-lesson-his

‘Ibrahim is saying that Semi is studying his lesson.’

b. *brahim qāʕed yqūl [CP f-illi semi yqra fī-dārs-ū]

Ibrahim prog say.imp fi-that Semi study.imp fi-lesson.his

The contrast in (51)a-b illustrates that aspectual fi does not precede declarative illi.

Moreover, as example (52) shows verbs of saying like qāl ‘to say’ do not present any independent condition blocking the insertion of aspectual fi, indicating that the absence of fi in (51)a must be due to the category of the complement.

(52) brahim qāʕed yeqūl fī-l-haqiqa Ibrahim prog say.imp fi-the-truth

“Ibrahim is telling the truth.’

As (52) illustrates yqūl selects a fi-marked direct object if the object takes the form of a DP, as in fi-l-haqiqa ‘the truth’. The comparison between (51)a and (52) shows that under the same aspectual conditions a CP argument of a verb of saying remains unmarked while a DP object requires aspectual fi marking.

The examples presented in this section show that aspectual fi behaves conformingly with Stowell’s predictions for prepositions: fi precedes DP arguments but not PPs or CPs. Since aspectual fi interacts with Case licensing like other prepositions do, this element is appropriately categorized as a member of this class as well. The double function of illi clearly shows this point:

when illi operates as a relative pronoun it can be preceded by aspectual fi because it tops a DP and DPs need Case. When illi operates as a declarative complementizer it cannot be fi-marked because the CRP filters out this possibility. Hence, since declarative sentences are CPs, they are not subject to Case licensing and, therefore, they are not adequate complements of any preposition including aspectual fi.

3.6.4. Case morpheme vs preposition

The above subsection discusses the interaction between Case licensing and aspectual fi insertion, illustrating that this type of fi, matches the behavior of other prepositions in the sense that it can only precede constituents that require Case licensing. These facts, however, could potentially be subsumed under an alternative explanation, that is the hypothesis that fi is not a preposition, but it is itself the morphological manifestation of Case.

This alternative approach is based on a map of the DP whereby a KP projection is considered as the highest functional head of the DP extended domain as proposed in Giusti’s (1993). We can apply this analysis to the topic addressed in this section, and adopt the thesis that aspectual fi merges in syntax as the head of a KP position and, therefore, that it belongs to the following nominal domain, as in (53):

(53) KP

 K’



 


In the course of the present subsection, I will illustrate that this analysis is not tenable for aspectual fi but it correctly accounts for a peculiar context of use of the preposition li ‘to, for’ in Tunisian, as predicted by the analysis proposed by Hallman (2017) for the same phenomenon in Syrian and Maltese Arabic.

The gist of Hallman’s proposal is that li has a double function in Syrian and Maltese, namely li is a preposition and a Case marker and this double status accounts for the syntactic behavior of recipient arguments in ditransitive constructions. I will retrace some of his supporting arguments replacing his Syrian and Maltese data with Tunisian ones, to show that Tunisian presents the same phenomenon. With this basis I will later illustrate that the analysis developed for li as a Case morpheme does not account for the behavior of aspectual fi.

Hallman identifies two classes of ditransitive verbs in Arabic: a class of verbs that patterns with the verb ʕaṭa ‘to give’ and a class of verbs that patterns with the verb baʕaṯa ‘to send’. Verbs like ʕaṭa, a.k.a. “give-type” predicates, present the following syntactic argument frames:

(54) marwa ʕaṭet semi le-ktēb Marwa give.perf Semi the-book

‘Marwa gave Semi the book.’

(55) marwa ʕaṭet le-ktēb l-semi Marwa give.perf the-book to-Semi

‘Marwa gave the book to Semi.’

Example (54) illustrates that give-type verbs allow the recipient to precede the theme and both arguments are realized as direct objects, i.e. a double object construction. Alternatively, example (55) illustrates that the same verb allows the arguments to occur in the reverse order. i.e. theme-recipient, with the recipient realized in the form of an indirect object introduced by the preposition li and the theme in the form of a direct object.

The availability of a pro-form for the substitution of direct objects shows that themes and recipients are realized as arguments of the same type in the double object frame:

(56) marwa ʕaṭat-ū l-semi Marwa give.perf-it to-Semi

‘Marwa gave it to Semi.’

(57) marwa ʕaṭat-ū le-ktēb Marwa give.perf-him the book

‘Marwa gave him the book.’

The object clitic pronoun -u can replace both the recipient in (56) and the theme in (57). Therefore, we can conclude that in this configuration both arguments are indeed syntactically represented as direct objects.

As for the second class of ditransitive verbs, namely verbs that display the same patterns as baʕaṯa, a.k.a. “send-type” predicates, they occur in the argument frames illustrated by (58) and (59):

(58) a. marwa baʕaṯet l-semi le-ktēb Marwa send.perf to-Semi the-book

‘Marwa sent the book to Semi.’

b. *marwa baʕaṯet semi le-ktēb Marwa send.perf Semi the-book

(59) marwa baʕaṯet le-ktēb l-semi Marwa send.perf the-book to-Semi

‘Marwa sent the book to Semi.’

The configuration in (58) shows that if the arguments occur in the order recipient > theme then the former argument must be preceded by the element li. As the contrast above illustrates, in fact, the omission of li rules out the sentence. Send-type predicates also allow the reverse argument order, namely theme > recipient. In constructions of this second type the recipient is preceded by li again.

The above data apparently suggest that send-type verbs require a prepositionally marked recipient argument in both the linear orders, unlike verbs of the give-type which allow constructions of the double object types (cf. example (54)). As Hallman claims, however, a closer look at the data shows that send and give-type verbs share closer syntactic properties than it may initially appear. Crucially, he proposes that the recipient argument of both verb classes underlies two different syntactic structures, DP and PP, and the two structures alternate in accordance to the linear position where the argument occurs. This claim entails that a recipient argument is a DP whenever it precedes the theme in spite of the verb class the selecting verb belongs to and, therefore, in spite of the presence of li in send-type constructions, meaning that sentences (58)a and (54) correspond to the structure in (60) and (61) respectively:

(60) marwa baʕaṯet [DP l-semi [DP le-ktēb Marwa send.perf dat-Semi the-book.acc

‘Marwa sent the book to Semi.’

(61) marwa ʕaṭat [DP semi [DP le-ktēb Marwa give.perf Semi.acc the-book.acc

‘Marwa gave Semi the book.’

Conversely, according to Hallman’s analysis, l-recipients uniformly underlie a PP structure in the theme > recipient order, regardless of their class membership, as represented in (62) and (63):

(62) marwa ʕaṭat [DP le-ktēb [PP l-semi Marwa give.perf the-book.acc to-Semi

‘Marwa gave the book to Semi.’

(63) marwa baʕaṯet [DP le-ktēb [PP l-semi Marwa send.perf the-book.acc to-Semi

‘Marwa sent the book to Semi.’

As the above representations show, this approach to the problem implies that the difference between give-verbs and send-ones boils down to their Case assigning properties. Constructions in which the theme > recipient order occurs always underlie a syntactic structure such that a prepositional head assigns case to the latter argument. Conversely, class membership is relevant in constructions where the order recipient > theme is found since give-type verbs assign accusative Case to both the recipient and the theme, while the send-type verbs assign dative to

As the above representations show, this approach to the problem implies that the difference between give-verbs and send-ones boils down to their Case assigning properties. Constructions in which the theme > recipient order occurs always underlie a syntactic structure such that a prepositional head assigns case to the latter argument. Conversely, class membership is relevant in constructions where the order recipient > theme is found since give-type verbs assign accusative Case to both the recipient and the theme, while the send-type verbs assign dative to

Dans le document Event building, selection and non-canonical Case: fi insertion in Tunisian Arabic (Page 113-135)