A spanning approach to the acquisition of double definiteness in Norwegian

Merete Anderssen


This study demonstrates how lexical spanning can be used to explain the various stages in the acquisition of double definiteness in Norwegian. The approach takes syntactic terminals to consist of sub-morphemic elements that are lexicalised by words or morphemes. Work on Scandinavian DPs has demonstrated that they involve two determiner-­‐‑like projections. Within the spanning approach, simple, unmodified structures in Norwegian are distinguished from modified ones by the fact that one morpheme spans both projections in the first case, while two morphological exponents are required to spell them out separately in the second. Furthermore, it has been argued that the term double definiteness is a misnomer, and that the two determiners spell out separate subcomponents of definiteness, Uniqueness and Specificity. For developmental reasons, Norwegian children start out by lexicalising these features individually. The suffixal article spells out Specificity, while a phonologically zero determiner spells out Uniqueness. When adjectives are introduced into this grammar, the result is a system that only spells out the suffixal article overtly, that is, an Icelandic type system. This development is followed by a period with a great deal of instability as the grammar tries to determine how to lexicalise the various terminals in the determiner phrase.


Norwegian; acquisition; double definiteness; uniqueness; specificity; spanning

Full Text:



Anderssen, Merete. 2006. The acquisition of compositional definiteness in Norwegian. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Tromsø.

Anderssen, Merete. 2007. The acquisition of compositional definiteness. In Merete Anderssen & Marit Westergaard (eds.), Papers from the Language Acquisition Workshop, SCL 2006, Nordlyd 34 (3), 252-275.

Anderssen, Merete. 2010. Tidlig tilegnelse av bestemt artikkel i norsk [The early acquisition of the definite article in Norwegian]. Norsk Lingvistisk Tidsskrift [Norwegian Journal of Linguistics] 28, 3-22.

Bobaljik, Jonathan David & Höskuldur Thráinsson. 1998. Two heads aren’t always better than one, Syntax 1 (1), 37-71.

Bohnacker, Ute. 2004. Nominal phrases. In Gunnlög Josefsson, Christer Platzack & Gisela Håkansson (eds.), The Acquisition of Swedish Grammar. Language Acquisition and Language Disorders 33. 195-260. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Chomsky, Noam. 1999. Derivation by phase, MIT Occasional Papers in Linguistics, 18, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Cinque, Guglielmo. 1994. On the evidence of partial N-movement in the Romance DP. In Guglielmo Cinque, Jan Koster, Jean-Yves Pollock, Luigi Rizzi & Rafaella Zanuttini (eds.), Paths towards Universal Grammar. 85-110. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Cinque, Guglielmo. 1999. Adverbs and Functional Heads: A Cross-linguistic Perspective. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dékany, Eva. 2012. A profile of the Hungarian DP: The interaction of lexicalization, agreement and linearization with the functional sequence. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Tromsø.

Delsing, Lars-Olof. 1993. The internal structure of noun phrases in the Scandinavian languages. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Lund.

Fodor, Janet Dean & Ivan A. Sag. 1982. Referential and quantificational indefinites, Linguistics and Philosophy 5, 355-398.

Julien, Marit. 2002. Determiners and word order in Scandinavian nominal phrases, Studia Linguistica 56 (3), 265-315.

Julien, Marit. 2005. Nominal Phrases from a Scandinavian Perspective, Linguistics Today, 87. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Kester, Ellen-Petra. 1993. The inflectional properties of Scandinavian adjectives, Studia Linguistica 47 (2), 139-153.

Kester, Ellen-Petra. 1996. The nature of adjectival inflection. Ph.D. dissertation, OTS Dissertation Series, Utrecht.

Longobardi, Guiseppe. 1994. Reference and proper names: A theory of N-

movement in syntax and Logical Form, Linguistic Inquiry 25, 609-665.

Lyons, Christopher. 1999. Definiteness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Longobardi, Guiseppe. 2008. Reference to individuals, persons, and the variety of mapping parameters. In Henrik Høeg Müller & Alex Klinge (eds.), Essays on Nominal Determination. 189-211. Studies in Language Companion Series 99. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Lyons, Christopher. 1999. Definiteness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Matthewson, Lisa, Tim Bryant & Tom Roeper. 2001. A Salish stage in the acquisition of English determiners: Unfamiliar 'ʹDefinites'ʹ, The Proceedings of SULA, University of Massachusetts Occasional Papers in Linguistics 25, 63- 71.

Plunkett, Kim & Sven Strömqvist. 1992. The acquisition of Scandinavian languages. In Dan Slobin (ed.) The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition, vol. 3. 457-556. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Pollock, Jean-Yves. 1989. Verb movement, Universal Grammar and the structure of IP, Linguistic Inquiry 20, 365-424.

Postal, Paul. 1970. On so-called pronouns in English. In Roderick A. Jacobs & Peter S. Rosenbaum (eds.), Readings in English Transformational Grammar. 56-82. Waltham, MA: Ginn & Co.

Radford, Andrew. 1993. Head-hunting: On the trail of the nominal Janus. In Fraser Corbett & S. McGlashan (eds.), Heads in Grammatical Theory. 73-113. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ramchand, Gillian. 2008. Verb Meaning and the Lexicon: A First Phase Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Roehrs, Dorian. 2009. Demonstratives and Definite Articles as Nominal Auxiliaries. Linguistics Today 140. Amsterdam/Philadephia: John Benjamins.

Santelmann, Lynn. 1993. The Distribution of double determiners in Swedish: den support in D0, Studia Linguistica 47, 154-176.

Santelmann, Lynn. 1998. The acquisition of definite determiners in Child Swedish: Metrical and discourse influences on functional morphology. In Annabel Greenhill, Mary Hughes, Heather Littlefield & Hugh Walsh (eds.), BUCLD 22 Proceedings. 651-662. Somerville, Massachusetts: Cascadilla Press.

Simonenko, Alexandra. 2011. Spellout and double determination in Mainland Scandinavian, University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 17, 205–214.

Starke, Michal. 2005. Lectures at CASTL, University of Tromsø.

Starke, Michal. 2009. Nanosyntax: a short primer to a new approach to language. In Peter Svenonius, Gillian Ramchand, Michal Starke & Knut Tarald Taraldsen (eds.), Special Issue on Nanosyntax, Nordlyd 36 (1), 1-6.

Svenonius, Peter. 1994. The structural location of the attributive adjective, The Proceedings of the Twelfth West Coast Conference of Formal Linguistics. 439- 454. Stanford, California: CSLI.

Svenonius, Peter. 2012. Spanning. Ms., University of Tromsø. http://ling.auf.net/lingBuzz/001501

Taraldsen, Knut Tarald. 1990. D-projections and N-projections in Norwegian. In Joan Mascaró & Maria Nespor (eds.), Grammar in Progress. 419-431. Dordrecht: Foris.

Thráinsson, Höskuldur. 1996. On the (non-) universality of functional categories. In Werner Abraham, Samuel David Epstein, Höskuldur Thráinsson & C. Jan-Wouter Zwart (eds.), Minimal Ideas: Syntactic Studies in the Minimalist Framework. 253-281. Amsterdam: John Benjamin.

Vangsnes, Øystein Alexander. 1999. The identification of functional architecture. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Bergen.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Licencia de Creative Commons

IBERIA An International Journal of Theoretical Linguistics
e-ISSN:  1989-8525