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Linguistics Seminar: Prof. James Yoon on ''Lexical Integrity and the Architecture of Morphology-Syntax Interface'

Event Type
Linguistics Department
Lucy Ellis Lounge, 1080FLB
Feb 27, 2017   4:00 pm  
Originating Calendar
Linguistics Event Calendar

Lexical Integrity and the Architecture of Morphology-Syntax Interface

Although morphology is taught as a system autonomous from syntax in introductory linguistics, many scholars have questioned whether morphology and syntax are autonomous or better viewed as different parts of a unified system. Proponents of Lexicalism maintain the traditional distinction between the two, while a number of generative linguists have argued that they are part of to a unified system. Under this view morphotactics is the extension of syntax while morphophonology is an extension of phonology.  

The opposing positions differ diametrically on (i) whether the (morphosyntactic) word is a theoretically important construct and (ii) whether the principles governing well-formedness of structure above and below the level of the word can intermingle freely. Defenders of Lexicalism point to a suite of diagnostics collectively known as Lexical Integrity tests (Bresnan and Mchombo 1995) as evidence for a ‘yes’ answer to the first and a ‘no’ answer to the second.

Tests of Lexical Integrity pivot around the apparent failure of principles of phrasal syntax at the threshold of words. If morphology and syntax constitute a unified rule system, as assumed in syntactically oriented approaches to morphology, such as Distributed Morphology (DM), such failure is not predicted.  It is surprising therefore that Lexical Integrity has not played a significant role in arguments for DM (Lieber and Scalise 2007, for the observation), especially when we consider the fact that others who argued for theories of unified morphosyntax clearly recognized the importance of these facts, recruiting them as evidence against strict Lexicalism (Baker 1988, Sadock 1991, etc.), showing that they are empirically problematic (Harris 2006), or arguing that they can be reanalyzed in theories that do not adopt lexicalist tenets (Lieber 1992, Bruening 2016).

In this talk, I shall examine two types of denominal predicates in Korean, which are distinguished by the fact that Lexical Integrity is observed in one but not the other. I shall demonstrate that the behaviors of the two classes of denominal predicates vis-à-vis Lexical Integrity can be modeled using the theoretical and empirical machinery of current DM, without making special assumptions about the special status of words.

While this is a welcome result, it turns out that DM predicts that more languages should behave like Korean in allowing systematic violations of Lexical Integrity, a prediction that is not upheld in many languages, such as English. I will show that the presence or absence of complex head formation (through head movement) prior to Vocabulary Insertion makes the correct cut between the two types of languages. The question of why complex head formation creates internal opacity is addressed as well, incorporating insights from recent work on Roots in DM (de Belder and van Cranenbroeck 2015), head movement (Matushansky 2006), and the derivational mechanics of Minimalism (Johnson 2003, Sato 2010, etc.).

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