‘A Pleasant Three Days in Philadelphia’: Arguments for a Pseudopartitive Analysis

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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics
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Phrases like 'a pleasant three days', which take the obligatory form Article + Adjective + (Plural) Numeral + (Plural) Noun (AANN), present a problem for English nominal syntax. Typically, the English indefinite article A(N) is incompatible with either numerals or plural nouns; however, in AANN phrases, this co-occurrence is obligatory. This problem has remained largely unaddressed in the literature. In this paper, I account for the AANN construction by associating it with the pseudopartitive. I propose that there is covert functional structure between the article and the numeral in AANN, and that this functional apparatus corresponds to the Measure Phrase structure found in pseudopartitives: in other words, the noun phrase 'a pleasant three days' is underlying equivalant to 'a pleasant PERIOD of three days'. After providing a brief descriptive account of the properties of AANN in terms of distribution, agreement, and selectional restrictions, I motivate an AANN--pseudopartitive connection by relating the identified properties of AANN to known properties of the pseudopartitive as discussed in Keizer (2007). I then introduce a syntactic structure for the pseudopartitive which is modified from Stickney (2010), and show that the proposed structure can account for all the noted idiosyncrasies of the AANN construction, including the obligatory A-A-N-N order, the co-occurrence of the indefinite article and plural numeral, the obligatoriness of the adjective, and the semantic behavior of the AANN construction.

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