Karen Duek


Current Projects:

Container pseudo-partitive polysemy

Proceedings of SuB 19, 2014 [paper]

Pseudo-partitive phrases headed by container noun, such as glass of wine, can be interpreted primarily as either the container, as in (1a) or the containee, as in (1b)

(1)a. The glass of wine holds 8 ounces.
b. The glass of wine is very sweet.
c. The glass of wine that holds 8 ounces is very sweet.

In my first qualifying paper I investigate the behavior of these phrases in a co-predication environment, such as (1c), where a single instance of the pseudo-partitive must satisfy the contradictory selectional restrictions of different predicates. The results of acceptability judgment experiments show that speakers find co-predication with container phrases as highly acceptable as co-predication with polysemous nouns such as book, raising the question of whether the source of polysemy here is the container noun itself or if it arises in composition in the pseudo-partitive structure.

External possession in Brazilian Portuguese

Going Romance 29, 2015 [handout]

This paper investigates the syntax of a type of external possession construction, illustrated below, in which the external argument of the verbal projection is interpreted as the argument of a body part or kinship noun elsewhere in the sentence. It argues that this dependency is best interpreted as a kind of anaphoric relation, rather than by movement operations, as proposed in Rodrigues (2010) and Floripi and Nunes (2009). I show that the construction is not subject to the locality requirements of movement, but to the presence of clause-mate subjects. Moreover, the interpretation of these null possessors is modulated by some of the same discourse factors known to play a role in the interpretation of logophoric pronouns more generally, such as the identity of the perspectival center.

(1) O Pedro desenhou nas pernas
The Pedro drew on-the legs
Pedro drew on his legs

(1) O Pedro desenhou nas primas
The Pedro drew on-the cousins
Pedro drew on his cousins

Bare singulars and Gender agreement in Brazilian Portuguese

Proceedings of CLS 48, 2012 [paper]
Workshop Languages with and without articles [handout]

Brazilian Portuguese allows bare singular nominal phrases like cachorro (‘dog’) in Cachorro late (‘Dog barks’), to occupy argument positions fairly unrestrictedly. Typically, BP also shows gender and number agreement in predicative adjectives, as shown in (1). However, whenever a bare singular occupies the subject position in a copular construction with a predicative adjective, gender agreement fails, as shown in (2). Agreement still holds and is obligatory, however, when the kind denoted by the noun is one in which gender distinctions are meaningful, illustrated in (3).

(1)Maçãs são gostosas /*gostososBare plural
Apple.f.pl are tasty.f.pl / *tasty.m.pl

(2)Maçã é gostoso /*gostosa Bare singular – arbitrary gender
Apple is tasty.m/ *tasty.f

(3)Atriz é vaidosa /*vaidoso Bare singular – natural gender
Actress is vain.f/ *vain.m

The paper addresses the questions (i) what is the relationship between the presence of functional structure associated with the noun and the possibility of agreement with predicative adjectives; (ii) how is the feature make up for nouns for which gender has semantic import distinguished from the nouns for which gender is arbitrary and inflexible and (iii) how is this difference responsible for the possibility of agreement with natural gender and the lack of agreement with arbitrary gender in bare singulars?