Regular and compositional aspects of NPN constructions
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Linguistics. 2021. 10.1017/S0022226721000116
The article proposes a novel analysis of NPN constructions, exemplified by English expressions like back to back and year after year. An NPN is typically composed of two identical bare singular count nouns with a preposition between them. Previous research tends to treat NPNs as highly idiosyncratic. While acknowledging some idiosyncrasies, the present contribution shows that NPNs exhibit a considerable degree of regularity and compositionality. A widespread view that bare singulars normally do not function as arguments is shown to rest on weak foundations. As a consequence, the present approach is able to show that NPNs are, at the core, NPs with PP modifiers. Nominal NPNs have this basic structure, while adverbial NPNs involve an extra layer of semantics and are exocentric constructions. A distinction between nominal types and instances is employed to account for the semantics of bare singulars. NPNs exhibit two kinds of emergent meanings, leading to chain NPNs and twin NPNs. The different semantic structures of these NPN subtypes explain why some NPNs can have nominal in addition to adverbial functions. The data comes mostly from Norwegian. Details differ between languages, but central parts of the analyses can be assumed to hold for other languages as well.