Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 339–405

Reference to Kinds across Language

  • Gennaro Chierchia

DOI: 10.1023/A:1008324218506

Cite this article as:
Chierchia, G. Natural Language Semantics (1998) 6: 339. doi:10.1023/A:1008324218506


This paper is devoted to the study of bare nominal arguments (i.e., determinerless NPs occurring in canonical argumental positions) from a crosslinguistic point of view. It is proposed that languages may vary in what they let their NPs denote. In some languages (like Chinese), NPs are argumental (names of kinds) and can thus occur freely without determiner in argument position; in others they are predicates (Romance), and this prevents NPs from occurring as arguments, unless the category D(eterminer) is projected. Finally, there are languages (like Germanic or Slavic) which allow both predicative and argumental NPs; these languages, being the ‘union’ of the previous two types, are expected to behave like Romance for certain aspects of their nominal system (the singular count portion) and like Chinese for others (the mass and plural portions). This hypothesis (the ‘Nominal Mapping Parameter’) is investigated not just through typological considerations, but also through a detailed contrastive analysis of bare arguments in Germanic (English) vs. Romance (Italian). Some general consequences of this view, which posits a limited variation in the mapping from syntax into semantics, for current theories of Universal Grammar and acquisition are considered.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gennaro Chierchia
    • 1
  1. 1.Istituto di glottologia e lingue orientaliUniversità degli studi di MilanoMilanoItaly, E-mail: Email