Interpreting reduplicated numerals in Old Ibero-Romance: a syntactic account

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This paper offers novel empirical data and a syntactic analysis of a construction found in Old Spanish, Old Portuguese and West-Iberian Medieval Latin where a reduplicated cardinal numeral produces a distributive reading at the sentential level (e.g. OSp. los pecheros deben tres tres meajas ‘the taypayers owe three meajas each’). In this typologically ‘exceptional’ construction (unattested elsewhere in (Ibero-)Romance and Western Europe), the reduplicated numeral forces the distributive reading, unlike non-reduplicated numerals in Ibero-Romance, which permit collective or distributive interpretations. Observing that the reduplicated numeral is chiefly attested in ditransitive structures, and that all constructions in which it appears involve literal or figurative (transfer) of possession, I propose that a double object(-like) configuration underlies the Old Ibero-Romance construction. Theoretically, I argue the construction is best accounted for at the clausal level by an applicative structure (Pylkkänen 2008), mirroring but distinct from Stowell (2013)’s distributive functional structure; and is encoded at the nominal level by a dedicated distributive layer (Ouwayda 2014) in the extended functional structure. This analysis captures variation in the construction’s distributive reading—viz. a low ApplP when the denotation of the noun modified by the reduplicated numeral distributes over individuals, and a high ApplP when it distributes over events—as well as parallels with a range of modern Ibero-Romance constructions, including transfer of possession, external possession and benefactive/malefactive sentences, also involving an applicative syntax. On this view, the syntax plays a deterministic role in the sentential (distributive) semantics, supporting a constructivist approach to the encoding of clausal meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPoints of Convergence in Romance Linguistics
Subtitle of host publicationPapers selected from the 48th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL 48), Toronto, 25-28 April 2018
EditorsGabriela Alboiu, Ruth King
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9789027257970
ISBN (Print)9789027210845
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2022
Event48th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages - York University, York, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Apr 201828 Apr 2018

Publication series

NameCurrent Issues in Linguistic Theory
ISSN (Print)0304-0763


Conference48th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages
Abbreviated titleLSRL 48
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Old Ibero-Romance
  • applicatives
  • distributivity
  • reduplicated numerals


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