Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 195–222

Bare nominals and reference to capacities

Original Paper

This paper concentrates on the syntax and semantics of bare nominals in Germanic and Romance languages. These languages do not normally allow nominals to occur without an article. However, some syntactic configurations, including predicative constructions, supplementives and some prepositional phrases, allow bareness of certain nominals. We argue that bare nominals in these constructions refer to capacities: professions, religions, nationalities or other roles in society. Capacities are analyzed as entities of type e, sortally distinct from regular individuals as well as kinds. We further argue that the capacity interpretation is associated with NP—a layer within the DP that lacks number features. This accounts for the number-neutral status of bare nominals. We also show some patterns in languages other than Romance and Germanic that provide further cross-linguistic support for the postulation of capacities as a separate ontological category, specific to a low position within the DP.


Indefinite Bare nominal Predication Capacity Number DP structure 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henriëtte de Swart
    • 1
  • Yoad Winter
    • 2
  • Joost Zwarts
    • 3
  1. 1.UiL-OTS/FrenchUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Computer ScienceTechnionHaifaIsrael
  3. 3.Department of LinguisticsRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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