General programme, activity sheet

Thursday 18 September, 2014 17:30 to 18:00 Oral presentation
Illusory specificity with Spanish 'algunos'
Authors:  Urtzi Etxeberria (CNRS-IKER) & Anastasia Giannakidou (University of Chicago)


The Spanish determiner algun(os) has been argued to have conflicting behavior. In the singular, it is claimed to be an anti-specific indefinite (Giannakidou and Quer (GQ) 2013, Alonso Ovalle and Menendez-Benito (AM) 2010) which requires an extension of more than one. The use of algún conveys that the speaker cannot identify who the student is, and considers possibilities: (1) Ha llamado algún estudiante. #Era Pedro. have called some student was Pedro ‘Some student called. #It was Pedro.’ But in the plural, algunos, has been claimed to behave ‘specifically’: it is necessarily linked to a previously introduced antecedent. (2) {Teachers A and B are on an excursion with [a group of children, of whom they are in charge]K. Teacher A comes to teacher B running:} (a) Teacher A: ¿Te has enterado? [Algunos niños] K, #J cl have found.out some children se han perdido en el bosque. cl were- lost in the forest (b) Teacher A: ¿Te has enterado? [Unos niños] K, J ‘Have you heard? some children se han perdido en el bosque. cl were lost in the forest.’ Martí claims that in choosing algunos, the speaker intends to refer to the set of children that were salient previously and argues that alg gives rise to a partitivity implicature (Martí 2008, 2009) This forces an ambiguity analysis, which is undesirable and does not capture the role of the plural. We propose a unifying analysis. We argue that in both usages referential vagueness is satisfied. In the plural use we have more than one value. Without an antecedent), algunos is indistinguishable from unos. The context dependency, therefore, arises only in anaphoric contexts where a discourse referent has previously been explicitly introduced. This discourse referent sets up an antecedent. Then the plural in this case functions as an anaphoric pronoun (Kester 1995). We will propose that a plural anaphor is triggered and is reflected in the plural number. Thus, what appears to be a plural is really an anaphoric pronoun: (3) [[algunos niños ]] = algun + proPL [+anaphoric] So, the plural introduces the pronoun proPL which is also an anaphor, but this happens only in the context of an overt antecedent. So, this is close in spirit to Marti’s C variable (cf. example (2)) which can also be thought of as a pronoun, but unlike her we do not assume that alg- introduces it, rather, we assume that if an antecedent is available the pronoun will be triggered, as expected generally in such contexts. References: Alonso-Ovalle & Menendez-Benito (2010), ‘Modal indefinites’, NLS; Martí (2009), ‘Contextual restriction on indefinites’, in Giannakidou & Rathert (eds.), OUP; Giannakidou & Quer (2013), ‘Exhaustive and non-exhaustive variation with free choice and referential vagueness’. Lingua. Kester (1996) The nature of adjectival inflection. PhD, Utrecht. Zamparelli 2007. On singular existential quantifiers in Italian. In: Comorovski, et al. Springer.
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Paper session C
Place: Main Room

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