What nominal phrases are all about: the atypical case of indefinite pronouns with a determiner

Pierre Larrivée

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents novel data that challenge the traditional categorial understanding of the nominal phrase. The established use of an indefinite pronoun with a determiner in French (ce quelqu'un, du n'importe quoi, un je ne sais quoi) contravenes assumptions both about pronouns, which should not be embedded, and nominal phrases, which should be headed by a noun. Analysed here for the first time, the embedding of a pronoun under a determiner is shown to find its justification in the semantic import of the construction. The anaphoric role guaranteeing referential continuity is promoted by a strong determiner; weak determiners typically contribute to constructing a designative use of the pronoun when a more precise characterisation cannot or will not be provided. How this construction would be analysed in the Minimalist Programme is presented to suggest that the phrase satisfies semantic requirements, which resolves the paradoxes of its traditional definition
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalRomanische Forschungen
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • nominal phrase
  • indefinite pronoun
  • French
  • determiner
  • semantic import
  • anaphoric role
  • Minimalist Programme


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