Bare Predicates and Extrinsic Properties

Marta Castella, Utrecht


The phenomenon of bare predicates (nld. Jan is tandarts, ita. Gianni è dentista, eng. Obama is president) raises interesting puzzles on the interaction between syntax and semantics, as well as the contrast between what Language can encode and the world’s ontology. This talk will discuss the meaning alternation between the bare and the non-bare form, and try to connect their interpretation to the well-established philosophical dichotomy between extrinsic and intrinsic properties (i.a. Lewis 1983). One of the advantages of adopting a non-lexical approach to bare predicates is that it enables us to account for a wider set of data, for instance the otherwise puzzling behavior of Romance relational nouns. In these languages, nouns like ita. padre ‘father’ must occur without articles (Gianni è padre di Maria ‘Gianni is Maria’s father’). However, when the di-phrase is omitted, the predicate can again be subject to the usual alternation between bare and non-bare (Gianni è (un) padre. ‘Gianni is a father’). Furthermore, an account of this type simplifies the explanation of the so-called “metaphorical” reading that only non-bare predicates can have (Il mio dentista è un artista ‘my dentist is an artist’).