This volume grew out of our research agenda, seeking to understand the structure and interpretation of bare nouns in three typologically and genetically unrelated articleless languages: Lithuanian, Inuktitut, and Innu-aimun. None of these languages has articles, and yet they are very different from one another with respect to the syntactic and semantic behaviour of their bare nouns (for Lithuanian, see Gillon and Armoskaite 2013, 2015; for Lithuanian and Innu-aimun, Gillon and Armoskaite 2012; for Inuktitut, Lithuanian and Innu-aimun, Gillon 2013, 2015). This variation forced us to question the universality of D, as well as the universality of the semantics of D.
Structurally, all nominals were originally conceived of as simply NPs. However, Abney (1987) argued that nominals are projections of D, rather than N. He based this on the parallelism between gerunds (derived from verbs) and nouns, as well as agreement patterns in languages such as Hungarian.
Semantically, determiners have long been argued to create arguments out of predicates (Higginbotham 1985; Szabolsci 1987, 1994; Stowell 1989; Longobardi 1994, among others). Thus, there seemed to be a tight relationship between D and argumenthood. Further, determiners are often assumed to be definite (e.g., Lyons 1999; see Matthewson 1998 and Gillon 2013 for arguments against this). Both of these ideas are questioned by authors in this volume.
Moreover, the nature of bare nouns is controversial: are they DPs (like other nominals), or are they different (in that they lack the DP layer)? There are three possible analyses: (i) bare nouns are DPs (just like all nominals) (Longobardi 1994), (ii) bare nouns are NPs (Chierchia 1998), or (iii) bare nouns can vacillate between NPs and DPs (Franks and Pereltsvaig 2004; Ajíbóyè 2006). It is also possible that bare nouns vary across languages: bare nouns in a language that has articles (like English) may still be DPs, whereas bare nouns in articleless languages may not be.
The most prominent analysis of this last type comes from Bošković (2005, 2007, 2008a,b, 2009, 2012) who claims that there is a dichotomy between so-called NP languages (languages that lack articles) and so-called DP languages (languages with overt articles). Many of the papers in this volume specifically address his proposal, but only one assumes that his analysis is correct; many of the authors in [End Page 251] this volume found the DP/NP dichotomy proposed by Bošković (2008) to be untenable for at least some articleless languages.
It is only natural to draw on Bošković’s work: the idea of a dichotomy is a plausible null hypothesis. Whether or not the proposed dichotomy holds—or if it does, to what extent—it still fuels linguistic inquiry. We hope the discussion in this volume will lead to a more clearly fleshed out and empirically motivated theory of nominal functional superstructure, as well as a theory about which languages and environments that superstructure will appear in.
Beyond the putative NP/DP divide, there are a few other recurring themes that can be found in the studies included in this volume. Many of them are familiar problems: problems that have yet to be resolved in languages that are more commonly researched, such as Germanic or Slavic. The fact that we also find these recurring themes in the otherwise underrepresented languages of this volume, such as West Greenlandic, Mauritian Creole, Tagalog, Tatar, and Vietnamese, shows how important these questions are.
We begin with the syntactic issues that arise. In languages without overt D, the relation of N to other functional heads must be sorted out, because other functional heads may behave like D (cf. the seminal article on the relation of classifiers to D by Cheng & Sybesma 1999, and Filip’s work on aspect 1995, 1999). Case is a plausible candidate for confusion. Does K (case) cross-linguistically flag the presence or absence of D? Or can a particular case be D (cf. Pesetsky 2013 on Nominative as D)? Or are these D and K heads completely independent of one another? Many languages lack any candidates for D, but in this volume, a few potential candidates were discussed. For example...