Existential Sentences in English

G. Milsark, 1974

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This thesis is an investigation of certain syntactic and semantic characteristics of English sentences containing existential there.  In Part I, the there-insertion analysis of the syntax of such sentences is examined and compared with a cariety of alternative analyses which have appeared in the literature, including the FS Hypothesis and the Cleft Reduction Hypothesis of Jenkins, the analysis of Kuno, in which existential sentences are derived from underlying structures with subject position locatives, and the reanalysis of the there-insertion hypothesis by Emonds.  It is concluded that only a movement analysis similar to there-insertion offers an appropriate analysis of the form of existential sentences on which to build an explanatory theory of their syntactic and semantic properties.  In Part II, a semantic analysis of there sentences is developed, culminating in the statement of a rule of derived structure interpretation for there structures which yields an incomplete, but intuitively satisfying characterization of their meaning.  It is then shown that this characterization provides an explanatory account of the Definiteness Restriction and the Predicate Restriction on there sentences.  The system developed is then extended to some of the less central syntactic and semantic problems associated with the analysis of existential sentences, and shown to provide solutions to many of them which avoid the addition of unprincipled restrictions to the syntactic and semantic rules involved.

Thesis supervisor:         Noam A. Chomsky

Title:                             Ferrari P. Ward Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics

Table of Contents

Preliminaries                                                                                                                 9

Part I    Do we have to have a there-insertion rule?                                                        12

Chapter 1         ES and the there-insertion analysis                                                         13

            1.1       Some facts                                                                                           13

            1.2       An analysis:  there-insertion                                                                   21

                        1.2.1    Synopsis of the analysis                                                 21

                        1.2.2    Claims and advantages                                                  24

                        1.2.3    Inadequacies of the there-insertion analysis                                37

Footnotes to Chapter 1                                                                                     44

Chapter 2         Emonds’ analysis                                                                                  48

            2.1       On the cases supporting the analysis                                                      49

                        2.1.1    The semi-modal restriction                                                        50

                        2.1.2    The predicate restriction                                                            52

            2.2       The passive/progressive problem                                                           55

            2.3       Conclusion                                                                                           60

Chapter 3         The PS hypothesis                                                                                62

            3.1       Summary of the analysis                                                                        62

            3.2       However…                                                                                          66

                        3.2.1    The arguments from extraction                                      68

                        3.2.2    Arguments from non-existent NP                                              72

                        3.2.3    Other arguments concerning passives and progressives  75

Footnotes to Chapter 3                                                                                     86

Chapter 4         The cleft reduction hypothesis                                                   90

            4.1       Summary of the analysis                                                                        90

            4.2       The relationship of clefts to ES                                                  95

            4.3       The relationship of perception verb sentences to ES                               101

            4.4       The range of alternatives for the structure of the coda                 110

Footnotes to Chapter 4                                                                                     114

Chapter 5         The loc-front proposal                                                                          116

            5.1       Summary of the proposal                                                                      117

            5.2       Evaluation of the arguments                                                                   118

            5.3       Counterarguments                                                                                 136

            5.4       Conclusion                                                                                           147

Footnotes to Chapter 5                                                                                     149

Part II  What can be done about it?                                                                              152

Preliminaries                                                                                                                 153

Chapter 6         Ontological, locational, and periphrastic ES                                           164

            6.1       What do existential sentences mean?                                                     164

                        6.1.1    The nature of the question                                                         164

                           The extension problem                                      166

                           The intension problem                                       170

                           Summary of the problem                                               172

                        6.1.2    “Exist” as a characteristic reading of ES                         173

                        6.1.3    The meaning of “exist”                                                  180

                        6.1.4    Summary of 6.1                                                                        186

            6.2       Solutions to things                                                                                 189

                        6.2.1    Approach                                                                                 189

                        6.2.2    The definiteness restriction                                                        194

                        6.2.3    The predicate restriction                                                            210

                        6.2.4    Additional matters concerning the quantification restriction

                                    and the predicate restriction                                                      216

                        6.2.5    The syntax of locational ES                                                       220

                        6.2.6    The problem of ungrammatical sources for ontologicals  228

                        6.2.7    The leftmost Be condition                                                          229

                        6.2.8    The semi-modal restriction                                                        232

            6.3       Conclusion to Chapter 6                                                                       234

Footnotes to Chapter 6                                                                                     235

Chapter 7         Verbal ES                                                                                            242

            7.1       Difference between inside and outside verbal ES                                   243

                        7.1.1    Inside verbals                                                                           244

                        7.1.2    Outside verbals                                                             245

            7.2       On the nature of the verbs in IV ES                                                       249

            7.3       Conclusion                                                                                           253

Footnotes to Chapter 7                                                                                     254