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Article

Nominalization and the problem of indirect access: Evidence from Ossetian

The Linguistic Review. 2016. Vol. 33. No. 3. P. 321-363.
Lyutikova E., Tatevosov S.

We examine aspect, eventuality type and transitivity alternations in two types of nominalization in Ossetian, an Iranian language spoken in East Caucasus, focusing on how deverbal nominals differ from fully inflected clauses projected by the same VPs. The main empirical finding of the study is: nominalizations exhibit a wider range of syntactic and semantic possibilities than fully inflected clauses. The finite verb in Ossetian is either perfective or imperfective and shows Slavic-type aspectual composition, but (prefixless) nominalizations are aspectless and are associated with English-type aspectual composition. Besides, deverbal nominals allow for transitivity alternations even if a corresponding finite verb does not. Our account for the observed pattern is based on the hypothesis that in the course of derivation, the range of options available at the VP level is narrowed down by the elements of functional structure, specifically, Asp and T. We argue that the role of Asp is to impose a quantization requirement on its complement predicate, while T interacts with the structure generated at the VP level in determining transitivity of a clause. Nominals can be built before Asp and T are merged, hence the semantic contribution of those heads is not part of their meaning. It that way, nominals provide us with a more direct access to the true characteristics of the verb and its immediate projections at early stages of derivation.