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French event nominals and number-inflection

Marie-Laurence Knittel
p. 127-148

Résumés

Cet article traite de la distribution du pluriel des noms événementiels complexes en français. Nous montrons en premier lieu que les VP tant téliques qu’atéliques donnent lieu à des nominalisations invariables en nombre, ce qui indique qu’il n’existe pas de corrélation systématique entre l’aspect interne et la pluralisation. Parallèlement, les noms événementiels variables en nombre résultent de la nominalisation de prédicats verbaux aspectuellement vagues ou ambigus. Pour rendre compte de cette dichotomie, nous supposons que les nominalisations non ambiguës disposent d’une projection de l’Aspect interne, alors que celles qui sont ambiguës ne se caractérisent que par une projection du Nombre. Seules les nominalisations de verbes inaccusatifs disposent de ces deux projections.
Comparant les nominalisations inaccusatives avec les nominalisations de verbes d’activité, nous montrons que la variabilité en nombre est liée à la perfectivité, ce qui révèle que la projection du Nombre introduit l’aspect perfectif dans le domaine nominal.

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1. Introduction

  • 1 Thanks are due to the reviewers of RLV for their comments, which helped to improve greatly the earl (...)

1This article examines the conditions bearing on the pluralisation of complex event nominals in French 1. Grimshaw (1990) has argued that complex event nominals – event nominals (ENs) that take arguments and display aspectual properties – do not pluralize. However, plural event nominals have been shown to exist in a variety of languages, contrary to this observation, e.g., in Slavic and Germanic languages (Alexiadou et al. 2010; Sleeman & Brito 2010), and in Romance languages (Iordăchioaia & Soare 2009), including French (Meinschaefer 2005; Roodenburg 2006; Knittel 2010).

2Our particular concern in this paper will be the relationship between aspect and number inflection. Relying on previous observations by Alexiadou et al. (2010) and Ferret et al. (2010) for French, we will put forward the hypothesis that plural marking in French is possible only for event nominals that display perfective aspect.

3This article is organized as follows. Section 2 introduces the relevant data; we distinguish two classes of event nominals based on number inflection: ENs that show variation between a singular and a plural form, and ENs that do not allow such alternation. In section 3, we consider the relationship between the lexical (Vendler 1967, Verkuyl 1972, Smith 1991) or ‘inner’ (Borer 2005, Travis 2009) aspect of event nominals and number distribution. We show that both telic and atelic VPs may give rise to uninflected nominalizations, while number inflected ENs are either aspectually vague/ambiguous, or correspond to nominalized forms of unaccusative verbs, unambiguously denoting achievements. In section 4, we provide some hypotheses to account for the facts observed in section 3. We suggest that an inner Aspect projection hosting a [±telic] feature is present in the structure of unambiguous ENs, and may co-occur with the Number projection in unaccusative nominalizations, while ambiguous ENs exhibit only a Number projection. In section 5, we examine the idea, put forward by Alexiadou et al. (2010) and Iordăchioaia & Soare (2009), that nominalizations may display ‘outer’, i.e. [±perfective] aspect. Since perfective nominalizations systematically allow both singular and plural forms, while imperfective ENs are always uninflected, we suggest that the outer aspectual value is directly linked to the distribution of Number.

2. The data

4French Event Nominals can be formed with several suffixes, most frequently -age (jardinage ‘gardening’), -ment (bombardement ‘bombing’), and -ion (utilisation ‘use’). Some ENs are formed through conversion (i.e. zero affixation) of past participles (conduite ‘driving’) or verb bases (attaque ‘attack’). In this section, we examine ENs in these morphological classes, and distinguish two patterns regarding number inflection: inflected and uninflected nominals.

2.1. Uninflected Event Nominals

5This subsection is dedicated to the examination of uninflected deverbal nominals.

  • 2 Abbreviations: Pl: plural; indef.pl: indefinite plural article; part.art: partitive article; Refl: (...)

6The first class of uninflected ENs stems from the nominalization of intransitive verbs denoting activities (Haas & Huyghe, 2010, Huyghe & Marín 2008, Heyd & Knittel 2009) 2.

(1)

a.

jardiner/

du

jardinage

‘to garden’

part.art

gardening

b.

balayer/

du

balayage

‘to sweep’

part.art.

sweeping

c.

naviguer/

de la

navigation

‘to sail’

part.art

sailing

(2)

de l’

eau

part.art

water

‘(some)

water’

The above examples show that such nouns are introduced by the partitive determiner du/de la, which also introduces concrete mass nouns (2). These nouns do not exhibit plural marking and cannot be introduced by the singular indefinite article un(e) under normal conditions (in (3), but see (7-8) below).

(3)

a.

*{un/des/plusieurs}

jardinages(s)

{one/indef.pl/ several}

gardening(Pl)

b.

*{un/des/plusieurs}

balayage(s)

{one/indef.pl/ several}

sweeping(Pl)

c.

*{une/des/plusieurs}

navigation(s)

{one/indef.pl/ several}

sailing(Pl)

These nouns are frequently introduced by the light-verb faire, resulting in atelic sentences (Haas & Huyghe 2010, Heyd & Knittel 2009, Beauseroy & Knittel to appear).

(4)

a.

Il a fait

{du

jardinage/du repassage}

pendant deux heures.

he has done

{part.art

gardening/part.art ironing}

for two hours

‘He has done {(some) gardening/(some) ironing} for two hours.’

b.

Elle a fait

du

balayage

pendant dix minutes.

she has done part.art sweeping for ten minutes

‘She has done (some) sweeping for ten minutes.’

c.

Il a fait

{du

nettoyage/de la

navigation}

pendant deux heures.

he has done

{part.art

cleaning/part.art

sailing}

for two hours

‘He has done {(some) cleaning/(some) sailing} for two hours.’

Some of these ENs also have transitive counterparts, which allow them to become telic when combined with quantized arguments.

(5)

a.

Le nettoyage

de toute la maison

en deux heures

m’a épuisée.

the cleaning

of all the house

in two hours

me-has exhausted

‘The cleaning of the whole house in two hours has exhausted me.’

b.

La lingère

m’a promis

le repassage de cette chemise

en 15 minutes

the maid

me-has promised

the ironing of this shirt

in 15 minutes

‘The maid promised me the ironing of this shirt in 15 minutes.’

Finally, French also displays strictly transitive atelic verbs that give rise to uninflected ENs.

(6)

a.

L’utilisation

*(de la photocopieuse)

pendant une journée complète

l’a endommagée.

the use

*(of the copy-machine)

for a day whole

it-has damaged

‘The use of the copy-machine for a whole day damaged it.’

b.

La conduite

(de la voiture)

pendant plus de quatre heures

m’a fatiguée.

the driving

(of the car)

for more than four hours

me-has tired

‘The driving of the car for more that four hours exhausted me.’

According to Knittel (2009, 2010), the presence of the definite article instead of the partitive is due to the fact that transitive ENs must occur as heads of possessive constructions. The possessive construction, which is necessary to legitimate the EN complements, is characterized in French by the presence of the definite article even at first mention. However, their mass character shows through two other properties. When modified, these nouns must be introduced by an indefinite article, like other mass nouns (7); they also allow a ‘manner reading’ when pluralized and modified, which parallels the ‘subtype’ reading displayed by plural mass nouns under the same conditions (8).

(7)

a.

La police

a sensibilisé

les automobilistes

aux risques

the police

have raised awareness

the drivers

about the risks

d’une conduite

*(dangereuse).

of a driving

*(dangerous)

‘The police have raised the drivers’ awareness about the risks of driving dangerously.’

b.

J’ai bu

{du vin /

un vin

??(exceptionnel)}.

I have drunk

{part.art wine /

a wine

??(exceptional)}

‘I drank {(some) wine/an exceptional wine}.’

(8)

a.

Les utilisations

inappropriées

de la machine

sont interdites.

the-Pl use-Pl

inappropriate

of the machine

are forbidden

‘Inappropriate uses of the machine are forbidden.’ (i.e. inappropriate manners of using the machine)

b.

Les vins

de ce viticulteur

sont exceptionnels.

the-Pl wine-Pl

of this winegrower

are exceptional

‘The wines of this winegrower are exceptional’ (i.e. the kinds of wine)

2.2. Inflected Event nominals

7As expected, the behaviour of inflected ENs contrasts with that of uninflected ENs. Inflected ENs may freely occur in the plural, and are introduced by the indefinite article un(e) in their intransitive use (9).

(9)

a.

envahir/

{une/des/plusieurs}

invasion(s)

‘to invade’

{one/indef.pl/several}

invasion(Pl)

b.

bombarder/

{un/des/plusieurs}

bombardement(s)

to bomb

{one/indef.pl/several}

bombing(Pl)

c.

attaque/

{une/des/plusieurs}

attaque(s)

to attack

{one/indef.pl/several}

attack(Pl)

The following examples show that inflected ENs allow pluralization in both transitive and intransitive uses.

(10)

a.

Plusieurs invasions

se sont produites

au xe siècle.

several invasion-Pl

Refl-be occurred

in the 10th century

‘Several invasions have occurred in the 10th century.’

b.

Il y a eu

des

bombardements

la semaine dernière.

there has been

indef.pl

bombing-Pl

the week last

‘There have been bombings last week.’

(11)

a.

Les invasions

successives

de l’Europe

(par les Barbares)

the-Pl invasion-Pl

successive

of the Europe

(by the Barbarians)

se sont répétées

pendant des siècles.

(Refl-be recurred

for indef.pl. centuries)

‘The successive invasions of Europe (by the Barbarians) have recurred over centuries.’

b.

Les bombardements

répétés

de la ville

(par les Alliés)

the-Pl bombing-Pl

repeated

of the town

(by the Allies)

ont détruit

toutes les habitations.

(have destroyed

all the houses) ‘

‘The repeated bombings of the town (by the Allies) have destroyed all the houses.’

A peculiarity of EN pluralization in French is that the described event must involve repeated occurrences with respect to the patient. This is exemplified in (12-13). In (12b), the nominal counterpart of (12a), the noun atterissage ‘landing’ occurs in the plural since it refers to two landing events by the same plane. Conversely, two landing events, each of which is performed by a different plane, can only be referred to by a singular EN (12d vs. e). Similar observations hold for the examples in (13), where bombardement ‘bombing’ must occur in the singular if it refers to one bombing event, even when several patients are involved. Consequently, example (13c) can only refer to several bombing events of each of the cities in question.

(12)

a.

L’avion

a atterri

deux fois.

the plane

has landed

two times

‘The plane has landed twice.’

=

b.

Les atterrissages

de l’avion

se sont bien passés.

the landing-Pl

of.the plane

Refl-be well passed

‘The landings of the plane went well.’

c.

Les deux avions

ont atterri

(une fois).

the two planes

have landed

(one time)

‘The two planes have landed (once).’

=

d.

L’atterrissage

des

deux avions

s’est bien passé.

the landing

of.the

two planes

Refl-be well passed

‘The landing of the two planes (went well).’

e.

Les atterrissages

des deux avions

se sont bien passés.

the-Pl landing-Pl

of.the two planes

Refl-be well passed

‘The landings of the two planes went well.’

(13)

a.

L’aviation

a bombardé

deux villes.

the air force

has bombed

two cities

‘The air force bombed two cities.’

=

b.

Le bombardement

de deux villes

a fait de nombreuses victimes.

the bombing

of two cities

has made many victims

‘The bombing of two cities has made many victims.’

c.

Les bombardements

de deux villes

ont fait de nombreuses victimes

the-Pl bombing-Pl

of two cities

have made many victims.

‘The bombings of two cities have made many victims.’

Evidently, this condition only applies to inflected event nominals. Thus, an event such as nettoyage ‘cleaning’ (14) will be denoted by an uninflected nominal, regardless of the number of repetitions or the identity of the patient.

(14)

La punition

de Max

a été

le(*s)

nettoyage(*s)

de la cuisine

the punishment

of Max

has been

the(*Pl)

cleaning(*Pl)

of the kitchen

(et de la chambre)

pendant un mois.

(and of the bedroom)

for one month

‘Max’s punishment has been the cleaning of the kitchen (and of the bedroom)for one month’.

We now turn to the interaction between the aspectual properties of the nominalized events and number-inflection.

3. Number-inflection and (a)telicity

8As exemplified in 2.1, most ENs that can be characterised as mass nouns describe atelic events. This observation is not unexpected, given Mourelatos’ (1978) and Borer’s (2005) position that only nouns referring to telic events can appear in the plural.

  • 3 Note that PPs introduced by pendant ‘for’ are not excluded with quantized arguments, this combinati (...)

9However, if this were indeed the case, we would expect a contrast between the telic and atelic uses of the ENs under consideration, the former exhibiting number variation, but not the latter. And yet, typically atelic ENs (such as repassage ‘ironing’ (15) or balayage ‘sweeping’ (16)) can combine with a quantized argument, resulting in a telic VP/NP (b-c), without altering the properties of the EN with respect to number inflection, as shown in (d) 3:

(15)

a.

J’ai fait

du repassage

pendant deux heures.

I have done

part.art ironing

for two hours

lit.: ‘I have done ironing for two hours.’

b.

Le repassage

de la chemise

en 15 minutes

the ironing

of the shirt

in 15 minutes

‘the ironing of the shirt in 15 minutes’

c.

J’ai repassé

la chemise

en 15 minutes

the ironing

the shirt

in 15 minutes

‘I ironed the shirt in 15 minutes’

d.

??

Les repassage-s

de la chemise

(pendant 2 heures /

en 15 minutes)

the-Pl

ironing-Pl

of the shirt

(for two hours /

in 15 minutes)

(16)

a.

J’ai fait

du balayage

pendant toute la matinée.

I have done

part.art sweeping

for all the morning

lit.: ‘I have done sweeping for the whole morning.’

b.

Le balayage

de la cour

en une demi-heure

the sweeping

of the courtyard

in a half hour

‘the sweeping of the courtyard in half an hour’

c.

J’ai balayé

la cour

en une demi-heure

I have swept

the courtyard

in a half hour

‘I swept the courtyard in half an hour’

d.

??

Les balayages

de la cour

(pendant toute la matinée/ en une heure)

the-Pl sweeping-Pl

of the courtyard

(for the whole morning/ in an hour)

We can, therefore, conclude that the number properties of these ENs do not rely on their telic or atelic reading.

10Let us now consider the aspectual properties of number-inflected ENs. The following examples show that achievements (assassinat ‘assassination’ (17) and vol ‘theft’ (18)) and accomplishments (lavage ‘washing’ (19) invasion ‘invasion’ (20)) give rise to nominalizations exhibiting number specification.

(17)

a.

assassiner/

{un/des}

assassinat(s)

to assassinate/

{one/indef.pl}

assassination(Pl)

b.

L’assassinat

de cet opposant politique

a eu lieu

à Paris.

the assassination

of this opponent political

has taken place

in Paris

‘The assassination of this political opponent took place in Paris.’

c.

Les assassinats

d’opposants politiques

sont fréquents

dans certains pays.

the-Pl assassination-Pl

of opponents political

are frequent

in some countries

‘Assassinations of political opponents are frequent in some countries.’

(18)

a.

voler/

{un/des}

vol(s)

to steal/

{one/indef.pl}

theft(Pl)

b.

Le vol

du tableau

s’est produit

à minuit.

the theft

of.the painting

Refl-be occurred

at midnight

‘The theft of the painting has occurred at midnight.’

c.

Les vols

de ce tableau

en 1917 et en 1988

sont restés

célèbres.

the-Pl theft-Pl

of this painting

in 1917 and in 1988

have stayed

famous

lit. ‘The thefts of this painting in 1917 and in 1988 are still famous.’

(19)

a.

laver/

{un/des}

lavage(s)

to wash/

{one/indef.pl}

washing(Pl)

b.

Le lavage

de la chemise

en une heure

n’a pas donné

the washing

of the shirt

in one hour

has not given

un résultat

satisfaisant.

a result

satisfactory

‘The washing of the shirt in one hour did not produce a satisfactory result.’

c.

Les

lavages

répétés

de la chemise

ont terni

ses couleurs.

the-Pl

washing-Pl

repeated

of the shirt

have tarnished

its shades

lit.: ‘The repeated washings of the shirt have tarnished its shades.

(20)

a.

envahir/

{une/des}

invasion(s)

to invade/

{one/indef.pl

}

invasion(Pl)

b.

L’invasion

du pays

en une semaine

a été une épreuve

the invasion

of.the country

in one week

has been an ordeal

pour ses habitants.

for its inhabitants

‘The invasion of the country in one week has been an ordeal for its inhabitants.’

c.

Les invasions

de la Gaule

au ve et au viie siècle

the-Pl invasion-Pl

of the Gaul

in.the 5th and in.the 7th centuries

ont

profondément

bouleversé

la société.

have

deeply

modified

the society

‘The invasions of Gaul in the 5th and 7th centuries have deeply changed the society.

The above examples illustrate the fact that ENs referring to telic events display number variation. However, as shown in examples (15-16) above, telicity does not necessarily entail number inflection. Consequently, we have to find another parameter weighing on the distribution of number.

11Note, however, that the ENs in (16-20) share a common property – they are all aspectually ambiguous.

12Consider the ENs in (21). The noun invasion ‘invasion’ (21a) allows aspectual modifiers introduced by pendant ‘for’, which should not be the case if it only admitted a telic interpretation. The same is true for lavage ‘washing’ (21b).

(21)

a.

L’invasion du pays

pendant deux ans

a été une épreuve

the invasion of.the country

for two years

has been an ordeal

pour ses habitants.

for its inhabitants

‘The invasion of the country for two years has been an ordeal for its inhabitants.’

b.

Le lavage

de la chemise

pendant une heure

n’a pas donné

the washing

of the shirt

for one hour

has not given

un résultat satisfaisant.

a result satisfactory

‘The washing of the shirt for one hour did not give a satisfactory result.’

The noun vol ‘theft’ can be construed either as an achievement (18b), or as an accomplishment, as shown by its compatibility with prendre X temps ‘take X time’ (22a); assassinat ‘assassination’ also allows a durative reading (22b), evident in its possible combination with pendant (Haas et al. 2008).

(22)

a.

Le vol

du tableau

a pris

plusieurs heures.

the theft

of.the painting

has taken

several hours

‘The theft of the painting has taken several hours.’

b.

Il a été blessé

pendant l’assassinat.

he has been wounded

during the assassination

‘He has been wounded during the assassination.’

Another ambiguity is illustrated in (23); the number inflected EN bombardement ‘bombing’ is ambiguous between a single event (i.e. the launching of one bomb) and a multiple event activity (Smith 1991: 85), consisting of the launch of several bombs.

(23)

a.

Le bombardement d’Hiroshima a eu lieu a 8h15.

[single event]

‘The bombing of Hiroshima took place a 8.15.’

b.

Le bombardement de Londres s’est poursuivi jusqu’en 1941

‘The bombing of London lasted until 1941.’

[multiple event activity]

ENs referring to activities with an inceptive component, i.e. focussed on their initial point (Smith 1991, 48), constitute another class of number inflected ENs. For example, cambriolage ‘burglary’ involves a break-in event, followed by various events of theft. Similarly, agression ‘aggression’ implies an assault followed by various molestations. Such events display properties of both activities and achievements, evident in their compatibility both with PPs introduced by pendant ‘for’ and with those introduced by à ‘at’, the latter focusing on the initial point of the process.

(24)

a.

cambrioler/

{un/des}

cambriolage(s)

to burgle /

{one/indef.pl.}

burglary(Pl)

b.

Il a été blessé

pendant le cambriolage

de sa maison.

he has been wounded

during the burglary

of his house

‘He has been wounding during the burglary of his house.’

c.

Le cambriolage

de la maison

a eu lieu

à minuit.

the burglary

of the house

has taken place

at midnight

‘The burglary of the house occurred at midnight.’ (i.e. it began at midnight)

Thus, such ENs display properties of two different aspectual classes, although they are not aspectually ambiguous, like the ENs in (21-23).

13The last class of ENs allowing number variation is the unaccusatives. Like the verbs they are derived from, unaccusative nominals refer unambiguously to achievements, and may occur either in the singular or in the plural.

(25)

a.

entrer /

{une/des}

entrée(s)

to enter, to come in /

{one/indef.pl}

entry(Pl)

b.

L’entrée

de l’acteur

a été

applaudie.

the entry

of the actor

has been

applauded

‘The arrival of this actor has been applauded.’

c.

Les entrées

de cet acteur

sont toujours

très applaudies.

the-Pl entry-Pl

of this actor

are always

much applauded

‘The arrivals of this actor always are much applauded.’

(26)

a.

arriver/

{une/des}

arrivée(s)

to arrive/

{one/indef.pl}

arrival(Pl)

b.

L’arrivée

de Paul et Marie

n’est pas passée inaperçue.

the arrival

of Paul and Marie

be-not passed unnoticed

‘The arrival of Paul and Mary did not go unnoticed.’

c.

Les arrivées

de Paul et Marie

ne sont pas passées inaperçues.

the-Pl arrival-Pl

of Paul and Marie

be-not passed unnoticed

‘The arrivals of Paul and Mary did not go unnoticed.’

Unaccusative ENs constitute a regular correlation between telicity and number inflection. Recall that the opposite pattern was noted with uninflected atelic nominals such as jardinage ‘gardening’ (4a). Both groups, thus, fit into the correlation between telicity and plurality put forward by Mourelatos (1978) and Borer (2005).

14Conversely, the other ENs described above do not exhibit such a strict co-variation between Number distribution and (a)telicity. Thus, nominals originally referring to activities do not allow pluralisation when merged with quantized objects, even though they denote telic events (15c, 16c). As for number inflected nominals, they cannot be systematically characterized as telic, but are either aspectually ambiguous or activities with an inceptive component. Our conclusion, then, is that it is not possible to establish a regular correlation between (a)telicity and the distribution of number in French.

15We can now propose a syntactic account of both inflected and non-inflected French ENs.

4. NumP and AspP: some hypotheses

  • 4 We assume that only count nouns are dominated by a Number Projection, and that the mass reading ari (...)

16As argued by various authors (see in particular Alexiadou et al. 2010, Iordăchioaia & Soare 2009, Brito & Sleeman 2010), the functional structure of event nominals can contain nominal projections, verbal projections or a combination of both. Among the nominal projections, number (NumP) is of particular interest here, since French ENs allow number variation. Therefore, the functional projections of number inflected ENs should contain a NumP 4, as is the case for any other count noun.

17As for the relevant verb structure, it has been postulated by Borer (2005) that the functional structure of ENs contains a projection of inner Aspect, AspP (see also Travis 2009). As shown above (17-24), number-inflected ENs in French are frequently aspectually ambiguous. To account for this phenomenon, we assume that they lack an inner aspect projection.

18The presence of NumP and the absence of inner aspect suggest, in fact, that number-inflected nominals in French are closer in structure to nouns than to verbs. A similar view is presented by Iordăchioaia & Soare (2009) for Romanian infinitive CENs that exhibit number-marking. According to their analysis, nominals of this class exhibit another peculiarity: they can establish anaphoric relations with the same demonstrative pronoun as nouns. Conversely, the other class of Romanian ENs, (uninflected) ‘supine CENs’, are referred to using the same pronoun as reference to clauses.

19A similar contrast is also observed in French. Anaphoric reference to inflected ENs patterns with reference to other nouns while reference to uninflected ENs patterns with reference to clauses. The following examples show that the third person personal pronouns il(s)/elle(s) are preferred as anaphoric pronouns for number-inflected ENs, compared to the neuter pronoun ça, which is used as an anaphor for clauses:

(27)

a.

Le bombardement de Londres a commencé en 1940. {Il/?? Ça} s’est poursuivi jusqu’en 1941.

‘The bombing of London has begun in 1940. {It/??That} lasted until 1941.’

b.

L’assassinat de cet opposant politique a eu lieu à Paris. {Il/?? Ça} a malheureusement fait d’autres victimes.

‘The assassination of this political opponent took place in Paris.

Unfortunately, {it/??that} has made other victims.’

c.

Ils ont été traumatisés par le cambriolage de leur maison. En effet, {il/? ça} a duré plusieurs heures.

‘They have been traumatised by the burglary of their house. Indeed, {it/?that} lasted for several hours.’

d.

{Elles ne sont pas/? Ça n’est pas} passé(es) inaperçu(es), les arrivées de Paul et Marie!

‘{They/? That} did not go unnoticed, the arrivals of Paul and Mary!’

Uninflected ENs are referred to by the neuter pronoun ça, as are the corresponding VPs.

(28)

a.

{Le jardinage/jardiner}, {ç’/*il} est agréable.

lit.’{The gardening/gardening}, {that/*it} is pleasant.’ (i.e. ‘Gardening is pleasant.’)

b.

{Nettoyer/le nettoyage de} cette chambre, {ça/*il} m’a épuisée.

lit. ‘Cleaning/the cleaning of} this room, {that/*it} has exhausted me.’

c.

{Conduire/la conduite de} la voiture pendant plus de quatre heures, {ça /*elle} m’a donné des maux de tête.

‘{Driving/the driving of} the car for more that four hours, {that/*it} has given me a headache.’

These data suggest that uninflected ENs are more ‘verbal’ than those which allow number marking. As a consequence, we may consider their lack of number inflection as a reflex of their more verbal characteristics.

20There are other arguments supporting such an analysis. Beauseroy & Knittel (to appear) show that uninflected activity nominals do not display the usual properties of nouns. They cannot be modified by qualifying adjectives ((29), see also Heyd & Knittel 2009), suggesting that they lack some functional projection that usually dominates NPs. Moreover, the light verb faire ‘to do’ can systematically be inserted to introduce these nouns (30-31).

(29)

a.

*Il fait

du

balayage

rapide.

he does

part.art

sweeping

fast

lit. ‘He does fast sweeping.’

b.

*La navigation

calme

est agréable.

the sailing

quiet

is pleasant’

lit. ‘Quiet sailing is pleasant.’

(30)

a.

La navigation

requiert

du

sang froid.

the sailing

requires

part.art

blood cold

‘Sailing requires cold blood.’

=

b.

Faire

de la navigation

requiert

du

sang froid.

to do

part.art sailing

requires

part.art

blood cold

(31)

a.

J’adore

le jardinage.

I love

the gardening

‘I love gardening.’

=

b.

J’adore

faire

du

jardinage.

I love

to do

part.art

gardening

A possible analysis, then, is that such nouns are associated with verbal projections, possibly the AspP mentioned above. Given that these nouns essentially refer to activities, we hypothesize that their structure contains an AspP projection encoding atelicity.

21As noted above, these nouns can combine with quantized arguments to give rise to telic DPs, similarly to verbs (15b, 16b). The absence of number inflection in such cases, also noted above, can now be seen as a result of the absence of a NumP projection in the structure of these ENs.

22Finally, let us turn to unaccusative ENs. Unlike other number-inflected ENs, unaccusative ENs (25-26) are not aspectually ambiguous, as they always denote achievements, which are clearly telic events. A possible analysis is that these ENs can be viewed as containing an Aspect projection, like activity ENs. But, the difference is that AspP in unaccusative ENs encodes a telic feature, rather than the atelicity found in activity nominals. Yet, unaccusative ENs systematically display number variation, suggesting that they are also dominated by a NumP. Consequently, unaccusative ENs display a mixed functional structure, containing both nominal and verbal categories.

23The following table summarizes the observations put forward in this section:

(32)

Example:

jardinage

bombardement

arrivée

Number inflection

+

+

NumP

+

+

Aspectual value

-telic

ambiguous

+telic

AspP

+

+

We now turn to the morphological structure of French ENs.

5. A note on morphology and outer aspect

24In the preceding section, we argued that activity nominals are characterized by the presence of an inner aspect projection in their functional structure and lack a Number projection. Consequently, the same unmarked form is used to refer to one or several events, as exemplified in (33).

(33)

Le balayage

de la cuisine

{hier/pendant trois semaines}

the sweeping

of the kitchen

{yesterday/for three weeks}

‘The sweeping of the kitchen {yesterday/for three weeks}’

In the above example, the adverbial hier ‘yesterday’ entails a single event reading of the string le balayage de la cuisine ‘the sweeping of the kitchen’ whereas pendant trois semaines ‘for three weeks’ is preferably construed as iterative, denoting a series of events. This assumption leads to another question: how does this plural event reading appear, in the absence of plural marking?

25In the verbal domain, event plurality has been argued to be the result of a pluractional operator (see in particular Cusic 1981, Lasersohn 1995, van Geenhoven 2004, Laca 2006 a,b). The same analysis has been applied to Romanian supine CENs that do not exhibit number variation (Iordăchioaia & Soare 2009). Looking back at the examples of activity nominals provided above, one can observe that most ENs are formed with the verbal derivational suffix -age (balayage ‘sweeping’, nettoyage ‘cleaning’, jardinage ‘gardening’, repassage ‘ironing’). According to Ferret et al. (2010), -age suffixation rule conveys outer aspect with imperfective value, and, consequently, the resulting nominalizations display pluractionality effects (see also Martin 2010, Uth 2010). This analysis could be used to explain why activity nominals ending with -age do not require plural inflection; since -age suffixation already supplies a pluractional value, there is no need for any other plurality marker.

26However, the correlation is not complete. On the one hand, as illustrated in (34), activity nominals may be derived by various other means besides -age (suffixes, past participle conversion, verb to noun conversion, see section 2).

(34)

a.

ranger/

rangement

naviguer /

navigation

to tidy/

tidying

to sail /

sailing

escalader /

escalade

conduire /

conduite

to climb/

climbing

to drive /

driving

b.

Faire

{du rangement/

de la navigation/

de l’escalade /

to do

{part.art tidying/

part.art sailing/

part.art climbing /

de la conduite}

pendant deux heures,

c’est {amusant/fatiguant}.

part.art driving}

for two hours,

it is {pleasant/tiring}

‘{To tidy/to sail/to do mountain-climbing/to drive} for two hours, it is pleasant/tiring}

On the other hand, as shown by Ferret et al. (2010), the suffix -age is not limited to activity nominals.

(35)

a.

L’abattage de l’arbre {*pendant/en} 15 minutes

‘The cutting down of the tree {*for/in} 15 minutes’

b.

Le démontage de l’armoire {*pendant/en} une heure

‘The disassembling of the cupboard {*for/in} one hour’

Note that -age nominals are not incompatible with idiomatic expressions that preclude the subdivision of events, such as en un tournemain (lit. ‘in one turn of the hand’) or en un clin d’œil ‘in one wink’ (Laca 2006b).

(36)

a.

L’abattage de l’arbre en un clin d’œil

‘The cutting down of the tree in one wink’

b.

Le démontage de l’armoire en un tournemain

‘The disassembling of the cupboard in one turn of the hand’

Therefore, we conclude that pluractionality with activity ENs comes from the atelic interpretation of nominals in itself, that is, from the presence of inner aspect with an atelic value. The same analysis is proposed by Alexiadou et al. (2010) for Polish EN -nie/-cie nominalizations.

27Unlike -age nominalizations, nouns ending with -ée, which are converted from past participles (Tribout 2010), are analysed as perfective by Ferret et al. (2010). However, as with -age nominals, things are not so simple. First, ENs derived from past participles are not always telic (e.g., conduite ‘driving’, from the past participle of conduire ‘to drive’, which refers unambiguously to an activity, (6b)). We assume that unaccusative nominals, that are generally converted from past participles (25, 26), are the exact counterpart of activity nominals in that they are necessarily telic (see section 3) and perfective. Recall, however, that they are dominated by NumP, as shown by their number inflection. Two analyses are possible here. On the one hand, we could assume that their outer aspect projection is dominated by a NumP, accounting for their count properties. On the other hand, it can be proposed that NumP in itself is responsible for their perfective interpretation.

28An argument supporting the latter hypothesis is provided by nouns such as danse ‘dance/dancing’ or marche ‘walk/walking’. As shown by various authors (Van de Velde 1995, Haas & Huyghe 2010, Haas, Huyghe & Marín 2008, Heyd & Knittel 2009, Beauseroy & Knittel to appear), these nouns can be used as either mass or count nouns.

(37)

a.

une danse/

de la danse

a dance /

part.art dance

b.

une marche/

de la marche

a walk /

part.art walk

As shown in (38), these nouns can be introduced by the preposition après ‘after’ when used as count nouns (38a), but not when they are construed as mass (38c). The après test is proposed by Ferret et al. (2010) to distinguish perfective from imperfective nominals.

(38)

a.

Après {une danse/plusieurs danses}, je bois un verre d’eau.

‘After {one dance/several dances}, I drink a glass of water.’

=

b.

Après avoir dansé, je bois un verre d’eau.

‘After having danced, I drink a glass of water.’

c.

*Après {de la/beaucoup de} danse, je bois un verre d’eau.

‘After {part.art. dance/a lot of dance}, I drink a glass of water.’

(39)

a.

Après {une marche/les marches}, j’ai mal aux pieds.

‘After {one walk/the walks }, my feet ache.’

=

b.

Après avoir marché, j’ai mal aux pieds.

‘After having walked, my feet ache.’

c.

*Après {de la/beaucoup de} marche, j’ai mal aux pieds.

‘After {part.art. dance/a lot of walk}, my feet ache.’

  • 5 Après does not influence inner aspect, since danse and marche in (37-38) are still construed as act (...)

Examples like (38) lead us to conclude that, in the case of danse and marche, number inflection is linked to perfectivity 5 (see Alexiadou et al. 2010 for a cross-linguistic generalization).

29This analysis can be transposed to unaccusative nouns, which can always be combined with the preposition après.

(40)

a.

Après l’arrivée de l’acteur, les applaudissements ont commencé.

‘After {the entry of the actor}, the applaudings begun’

=

b.

Après que l’acteur est arrivé, les applaudissements ont commencé.

‘After the actor came in, the applaudings begun’

Finally, let us consider additional number inflected ENs. Here we find greater morphological variation than with activity nominals. This was illustrated above with nouns ending in -ion (invasion ‘invasion’ (9a)), -ment (bombardement ‘bombing’ (9b)) and -at (assassinat ‘assassination’ (17)), as well as cases of noun-to-verb conversion (zero affixation, e.g., vol ‘theft’ (18)). Unlike uninflected nominals and unaccusatives, that display some sort of morphological regularity, number inflected ENs cannot receive a uniform analysis. In the preceding section, we have hypothesized that such nouns do not contain an inner aspect projection in their structure, in light of their aspectual ambiguity. On the other hand, we have argued that number inflection conveys perfectivity in unaccusative nouns. Extending this position to the present set of ENs, that have been defined as inflected nominals, we should expect these nominals to display perfective outer aspect. This is confirmed in (41), using the après test introduced in (38) above.

(41)

a.

Après {le vol/l’assassinat/le cambriolage}, un suspect a été arrêté par la police.

‘After {the theft/the assassination/the burglary}, a suspect has been arrested by the police.’

b.

La rebellion a commencé après {l’invasion/le bombardement}.

‘The rebellion begun after {the invasion/the bombing}.’

Ferret et al. (2010) propose another test of perfectivity: when used as objects of filmer ‘to film’, perfective ENs are construed as referring to events as a whole, including their initial and final endpoints. As expected, our inflected ENs reveal perfective behaviour (42).

(42)

a.

J’ai filmé {le vol/l’assassinat/le cambriolage}.

‘I have filmed {the theft/the assassination/the burglary}.’

b.

{L’invasion/le bombardement} a été filmé.

‘{The invasion/the bombing} has been filmed.’

Our conclusion is, therefore, that the perfective interpretation of these ENs is due to the presence of a Number Projection in their functional structure, as is the case with unaccusative nominals.

30Since (im)perfectivity in French is conveyed by the inflectional category of Tense in the verbal domain, the fact that it is also conveyed by Number, the only inflectional category available in the nominal domain, appears to be a welcome result.

6. Conclusion

31In this article, we examined the behaviour of French Event Nominals with respect to number marking.

32We have shown that two types of nominals display number inflection: unaccusatives, that retain the telic feature of their base verbs, and a mixed class of aspectually vague or ambiguous ENs. Conversely, activity nominals never allow number inflection, although they may give rise to telic DPs when combined with quantized objects. We therefore conclude that number inflection does not arise from telicity.

33Turning to the examination of outer aspect, we showed that unaccusatives and vague or ambiguous ENs exhibit perfective behaviour in perfectivity tests proposed by Ferret et al. (2010). Consequently, we argue that number inflection is restricted to nominals displaying a perfective interpretation, an observation with attested cross-linguistic parallels (Alexiadou et al. 2010). To account for this observation, we hypothesized that the projection of Number is responsible for the perfective interpretation of inflected nominals. This conclusion is further supported by a particular class of nouns derived from activity verbs, which allow both mass and count uses. We showed that a perfective interpretation of these nouns only arises when they are construed as count nouns, as predicted by the proposed analysis.

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Notes

1 Thanks are due to the reviewers of RLV for their comments, which helped to improve greatly the earlier version of this article. I am also grateful to Elena Soare for her insightful observations and suggestions.

2 Abbreviations: Pl: plural; indef.pl: indefinite plural article; part.art: partitive article; Refl: reflexive pronoun.

3 Note that PPs introduced by pendant ‘for’ are not excluded with quantized arguments, this combination resulting in the atelic reinterpretation of the VPs/DPs:

Image 10000000000001E5000000601BAA074B.png

4 We assume that only count nouns are dominated by a Number Projection, and that the mass reading arises from the absence of NumP (see Kwon & Zribi-Hertz 2004, Knittel 2009).

5 Après does not influence inner aspect, since danse and marche in (37-38) are still construed as activities.

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Marie-Laurence Knittel, « French event nominals and number-inflection », Recherches linguistiques de Vincennes [En ligne], 40 | 2011, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2013, consulté le 19 août 2017. URL : http://rlv.revues.org/1970 ; DOI : 10.4000/rlv.1970

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Auteur

Marie-Laurence Knittel

Nancy-Université & UMR 7118-ATILF

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