Nominal Modification

The Graduate School on Nominal Modification at the University of Frankfurt

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Colloquium: Sanja Srdanović

On Tuesday, December 18th at 4pm in SH 3.104, Sanja Srdanović will be giving a talk in the GK colloquium.

Binding Principle B in Serbian possessive constructions: clitics vs. strong pronouns


According to the Universal DP Hypothesis, it is claimed that all languages have a DP, including
articleless languages (Bašić, 2004; Progovac, 1998). On the other hand, other authors (Bošković,
2008; Chierchia, 1998) question the universal availability of a DP. One piece of evidence in
favour of the no-DP analysis is that Serbian and English differ in the binding properties of
possessives constructions (Despić, 2011). It is impossible for the Serbian possessive and the
bound element to corefer, as shown in (1).

(1) *Petrovi omiljeni   pas je juče           ugrizao njegai. (Serbian)

Peter’s    favourite dog is yesterday bit          him

‘Peteri’s favourite dog bit himi yesterday.’

The same English or German examples might be ambiguous, i.e. both coreferential and non-
coreferential readings are possible. Assuming that Serbian does not project DPs, but traditional

NPs, Serbian prenominal modifiers c-command out of the NPs because they are adjuncts, and
thus violate binding principles B and C. However, Despić’s analysis meets some challenges. I
believe that possessive names can indeed be coreferential in Serbian if a weak pronoun
(clitic) ‘ga’ is used as the bound element. Clitics in Serbian behave differently from full
pronouns and R-expressions with respect to their binding properties. This can be explained by
Safir’s Form to Interpretation Principle (FTIP), which determines the distribution of reflexives,
pronouns, and R-expressions, saying that njega, ‘him’ is outcompeted by ga, ‘him-CL’.
Ultimately, cross-linguistic differences in such constructions are not related to the presence or
absence of a DP, but conditioned by Safir’s FTIP. According to Despić’s (2013) analysis, there
are no differences between sentences with the clitics and full pronouns, i.e. both cases should be
equally unacceptable. However, based on the acceptability judgments of my informants, it seems
that sentences with the clitics are acceptable with the coreferental reading, exactly as in English
and German. I will present the first results from my pilot experiment with monolingual Serbian
speakers, which aims at questioning whether there are differences between clitics and full
pronouns in binding and referential properties in structures such as (1).

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