Semantics of nouns and the specification of number in Turkish

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
This thesis is an investigation of the semantic and morpho-syntactic properties of nouns and noun phrases in Turkish. Adopting a hybrid model of formal and lexical semantic views on noun semantics and nominal number as a theoretical basis, the primary objective of this work is to account for why nouns and noun phrases behave the way they do in the language. The arguments laid out in this work constitute an alternative to the claims that nouns in Turkish are no different from adjectives as they have the same distributional properties and are used interchangeably. Thus the current study aims to characterize the denotational and number related properties of nouns in a unified framework. The semantic as well as the morpho- syntactic characteristics of nouns in Turkish reveal the fact that nouns pattern with what are often referred to as set nouns as a noun subtype within the broad typology of noun subcategories. The analysis also shows that certain grammatical elements that are generally regarded as typical number markers need to be reclassified as nominal aspect markers in the language. Moreover, a careful examination indicates that even though there is hardly any difference between nouns with respect to their morpho-syntactic distribution, there are still certain distinctions between nouns that point to a count-mass distinction. Specifically, it is shown that the referential properties of NPs headed by set nouns and mass nouns are significantly different from one another in Turkish. This distinction is captured by proposing that there are in fact two processes that are relevant to number specification, namely singularization that applies to NPs headed by set nouns and unitization that applies to NPs headed by mass nouns. Last but not least, the claim that languages with set nouns display number discord which takes place between plural subject NPs and verbal elements is also confirmed by data from Turkish. The conclusions not only show the fact that number discord is correlated with the semantic/pragmatic parameters such as distinctness and topicality, but also provide further evidence for the classification of nouns as set nouns in the language.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Hedberg, Nancy
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