Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Christina Tortora

Committee Members

Jason Kandybowicz

Richard S. Kayne

Jon Nissenbaum

Subject Categories

Modern Languages


completive 'todo', all, possession, existentials, locative expressions


In Spanish, the element todo ‘all’ agrees in gender and number with the noun it quantifies over (todas las ventanas ‘all.F.PL the.F.PL windows.F.PL’). In this work I discuss a novel construction in Rioplatense Spanish, restricted to existentials and possessives, in which todo agrees in gender and number with a given nominal in the structure but is neither syntactically nor semantically related to it (e.g., Hay toda agua en el baño (have.PRS all.F.SG water.F.SG in the bathroom) ‘There’s water over the whole bathroom floor’). I argue that the syntax and the interpretation of this construction, which I have labeled the completive todo construction, can be explained only if todo ‘all’ is understood to be modifying a silent element (in the sense of Kayne 2004). In particular, I propose that completive todo sentences contain a silent SPACE element and a silent preposition WITH. Todo is the modifier of a PP headed by silent WITH and the nominal that agrees with todo (e.g., agua in Hay toda agua en el baño) is the complement of this silent P. This analysis has a series of welcome consequences. I show that it sheds light on the structure of existential sentences in Spanish and it supports the view put forth in Levinson 2011, contra Freeze 1992, that a single underlying structure for possessive structures cannot be maintained. It also furthers our understanding of other constructions such as the locative alternation (e.g., He loaded hay onto the truck./He loaded the truck with hay.) by offering a new explanation of the source of the holistic effect. Moreover, it holds the promise of deepening our understanding of possession and existence in other languages such as English, where the construction (I have all sand in my hair!), subject to dialectal variation, is also attested.