The partitive constraint in optimality theory

Journal of Semantics 17 (4):281-314 (2000)
Abstract
This paper discusses a case of syntax/semantics interaction of a characteristically optimality-theoretic kind. Finnish partitive constructions exhibit a case alternation that is partly semantically, partly syntactically driven. The crucial semantic condition that plays a role in case selection is quantitative determinacy, which replaces the definitenes condition familiar from the Partitive Constraint. The crucial syntactic condition is the Case-OCP, which prohibits the assignment of the same case to both the head and its sister. The syntactic and semantic constraints conflict, which leads to various kinds of outcomes, including free variation and ambiguity, as well as preferences in expression and preferences in interpretation. We develop an optimality-theoretic analysis of these facts based on partially ordered optimality-theoretic grammars. In such grammars, conflicts among semantic and syntactic constraints are resolved in terms of ranking. Partial ordering is crucial in deriving preferences in expression as well as interpretation, including blocking effects
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