Nominals in Basque and their existential interpretation

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Assuming that Souletin, the Basque dialect from Zuberoa, is a previous stage compared to Standard Basque (cf. Michelena 1964, Camino 2015; cf. also Manterola 2012, 2015), this paper tries to explain how Basque historically moves from a situation where bare nouns are allowed (Souletin dialect) to a situation where bare nouns are not allowed in argument position (Standard Basque). The reason we move from system A to system B is argued to be due to a semantic weakening and loss of the null D: (i) in Souletin BNs are full DPs with an empty head occupied by a phonetically null D (with indefinite reference and unspecified for number); (ii) this null D loses its semantic features and since it is null it cannot be reanalyzed and gets lost; (iii) in Standard Basque, due to the fact that null D is no longer available, the definite article [-a] -a semantically flexible element, cf. Etxeberria 2005 et seq- takes its place, as is phonologically a weak element, i.e. a suffix, and so the closest phonological alternative to the null D.


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