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Linguistic Inquiry

Winter 2017, Vol. 48, No. 1, Pages 1-45
(doi: 10.1162/LING_a_00234)
© 2017 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
AP Adjacency as a Precedence Constraint
Article PDF (539.46 KB)

Attributive APs precede certain other categories (PPs, genitive DPs, etc.), when the noun precedes both (Giurgea 2009, Adger 2012). This observation may suggest an analysis in terms of X-bar-style “structural layering.” However, such an account faces several problems: (a) in languages with PP-AP-N order, scrambling of the AP is permitted; (b) in languages with AP-N-PP or PP-N-AP order, there is evidence that the AP can c-command the PP, as well as the other way around; and (c) in languages with N-AP-PP order, the AP can take scope over the PP, as well as the other way around, arguably as a consequence of a structural ambiguity. We therefore develop an alternative analysis based on a striking parallel between the syntax of attributive APs and that of objects: while OV languages systematically allow adverbs to intervene between object and verb, VO languages tend to require verb-object-adverb order. This aspect of verbal syntax is familiar and can be captured in terms of a well-known linear constraint: Case Adjacency (Stowell 1981, Janke and Neeleman 2012). We propose that this constraint has a nominal counterpart that ensures N-AP adjacency in noun-initial structures. Thus, this instance of NP/VP parallelism has its source in parallel constraints, rather than parallel structural layers.