Institut de Lingüística Aplicada

Third Mediterranean Meeting on Morphology (MMM3)


Elena Felíu and Antonio Fábregas (Autonomous University of Madrid)
Phrasal scope and argument constraints of Spanish
inter- prefixation

In the literature several ways have been identified in which derivational morphology and syntax interact. These are, among others, modification of the predicate argument structure, phrase vs. word scope of affixes, as well as prefixation processes which involve lexical subordination or aspectual modification. Taking as a point of departure the general hypothesis that morphology is autonomous from syntax, although they certainly interact (cf. Di Sciullo, 1996), in this paper we will look into another relation between derivational morphology and syntax, rooted in lexical semantics: constraints on predicate argument structure through a type of prefixation process that does not affect the valency of the predicate.

Following Jackendoff's conceptual semantics (Jackendoff, 1983, 1990, 1991, 1997), and particularly his proposal of enriched composition (1997), we will asume that the way LCSs are combined to produce conceptual structure depends crucially on the internal structure of the LCSs themselves. With this perspective in mind, we will consider the case of Spanish nominal phrases consisting of an eventive deverbal noun (comunicación 'communication') and a relational adjective (departamental 'departamental'). In these constructions inter- prefixation seems to have phrasal scope, as has been pointed out for other prefixes like ex- (ex [Primer Ministro] 'former Prime Minister') or pro- (manifestación pro [derechos humanos] 'pro human rights demonstration') (cf. Rainer and Varela, 1992; Gràcia, 1999). The main difference between inter- and prefixes like ex- or pro- lies in the fact that inter- has an effect on the argument structure of the predicate to which it attaches, more specifically, it establishes a bidirectional relation between two arguments of a predicate, while ex- and pro- do not affect the argument structure of their bases.

We will focus our attention on the following facts:

a. As with other relational adjectives, an adjective formed with prefix inter- may receive either a non-argumental (locative) reading (1a) or an argumental reading (1b), depending on the semantic and syntactic structure of the noun it modifies:

a. espacio interdepartamental 'space which is placed between departments'
b. comunicación interdepartamental 'reciprocal relation between departments'

b. When the NP is headed by an eventive noun, inter- prefixation may take place either on the head of the NP (2a) or on the argument of that predicate (2b):

a. intercomunicación departamental 'reciprocal communication between departments' / 'reciprocal communication between people in a department'
b. comunicación interdepartamental 'reciprocal communication between departments'

c. As (2a) shows, when inter- prefixation takes place on the head of the NP, the relational adjective shows the two expected readings: the argumental one (intercomunicación departamental 'reciprocal communication between departments') and the non-argumental (locative) one (intercomunicación departamental 'reciprocal communication between people in a department').

d. However, the presence of inter- prefixed on the relational adjective as in (2b) implies exclusively the argumental reading, whereas the non-argumental (locative) one is excluded.

In accounting for these facts, we will prove that phrasal scope of inter- manifests itself in the process of argument composition that takes place between the LCS of the phrase constituents, by imposing particular restrictions on the number and nature of arguments. Thus, inter- prefixation gives support to the claim that the same LCS can be associated with different morphosyntactic forms (cf. Spencer and Zaretskaya, 1998, among others).