Ora Matushansky (CNRS/Université Paris-8) and Joost Zwarts (Utrecht University)
THE PARTIAL NOMINALITY OF AXIAL PARTS
Axial prepositional complexes are widespread cross-linguistically:
(1) a. El libro está de-l-ante de la mesa. Spanish, Fábregas 2007
the book is from-the-front of the table
The book is in front of the table.
- hu haya mi-taxat la-bayit/ha-bayit. Hebrew, Botwinik-Rotem 2008
he was from-bottom dir+def-house/ def-house
He was under the house.
- S-pered-i ot dom-a roslo derevo.
down.from-front-loc from house-gen grew tree
A tree grew in front of the house. Russian, Mitrofanova and Minor 2013
(2) Maria a-mami î-gûrû ri-a metha. Kîîtharaka, Muriungi 2006
1.Maria sm1-sleep 5-top 5-as 9.table
Maria is sleeping/lying on top of the table.
Svenonius 2006, 2010 and many others treat axial elements like ante, taxat, pered, and gûrû as purely functional. We argue that they are lexical (and generally nominal), albeit deficient, because this naturally accounts for alternations like on top of your head versus at the top of your head, idiosyncratic restrictions on the ground with some axial parts (e.g., on board this train/aircraft/spaceship/*theater), their nominal syntax (e.g., overt definite articles (1a), their gender agreement), and various similarities with weak definites (e.g., noun-dependent article drop, lack of modification and impossibility of pluralization (Ross 1996, Svenonius 2006)).
In order to explain how axial complexes are built around axial nouns, we propose a semantic decomposition of an axial complex:
(3) [locative [def1 [projective [def2 [axial [possessive [ground]]]]]]]
We show how this decomposition accounts for the different ways in which axial complexes are realized cross-linguistically.