Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I don't know how well your average US movie trailer represents spoken North American English, but I found it rather striking that this particular trailer contained not one, but two examples of contrastive focus reduplication in the space of 40 seconds. The first one is a classic:

- You like her?
- Yes.
- You LIKE-HER-like-her?

It's the second one, spoken by the lovely and talented Zooey Deschanel, that stands out:

- I got the baby.
- THE-BABY-the-baby?

According to Ghomeshi et al. referenced in the LanguageLog post above (preprint, section 3.4, p. 27), one of the constraints on contrastive reduplication (CR) is

(57) a. The scope of CR is either X0 or XPmin.

So if I got this right, in case of noun phrases, only minimal noun phrases (i.e. bare noun/pronoun) can be reduplicated and thus reduplication of a NP -> D N such as the one above should be impossible. And indeed, as Ghomeshi et al. elaborate:

Condition (57a) is violated in *A-LINGUIST-a linguist (cf. (47)): although the determiner is a grammatical morpheme, it is outside of NPmin, so it cannot be within the scope of CR.

The examples they refer to are

(47) a. Do you want [tu:] or WANT [tu:]-want [tu:]?
b. ? Do you wanna or WANNA-wanna?

(48) a. I wouldn’t DATE–date a linguist.
b. * I wouldn’t DATE-A–date-a linguist


(49) * I wouldn't date [CG A-LINGUIST]-[a linguist]

all from section 3.3 which deals with the optionality of some types of complements with some types of heads (e.g. pronouns or prepositions for verbs, PPs for adjectives). In comments to (47), they wonder if this optionality can be explained phonologically, i.e. those complements are considered clitics and they can, but don't have to be, included in CR. Long story short, citing Hayes' "clitic group" (CG in (49) - "a prosodic word plus the clitics to its right or left"), Ghomeshi et al. dismiss the idea of clitics being involved in CR, noting that (emphasis mine)

So in (48), date and a do not form a copyable clitic group, since a must belong to the same clitic group as linguist. However, Hayes’ definition of clitic group includes clitics on the left as well as the right, and these never reduplicate11.

Hence the asterisk preceding (49) - whatever the phonological considerations in CR, clitics to the left of the prosodic word (such as determiners in NPs) are never a part of the duplicated phrase. Footnote 11 explains that the only exception to that rule are lexicalized proper names (The Hague) and gives the following example:

The casino isn't in THE-PAS-The-Pas, but in Opaskwayak.
(The reserve of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation includes land that is in the northern Manitoba town of The Pas, but not legally part of it.)

This example, however, does not appear in Kevin Russell's corpus and, more importantly, it doesn't explain Ms. Deschanel's reduplication.

Now I'm way in over my head here, so my first stupid question is whether the fact that "THE-BABY-the-baby" doesn't appear in a complete sentence is to any extent relevant. Judging by the examples of same type given by Ghomeshi et al. (e.g. 7, 8, 10, 11, 17), I don't think so, but what do I know. The bottom line seems to be that we have a real-life example of reduplication of a NP -> D N, something Ghomeshi et al. claim is not possible. Would you agree or did I miss something?