On the identity of Roots
Heidi Harley
November 2013

In Distributed Morphology, the term 'root' names a particular theoretical construct which plays an important role in the framework. Here, empirical evidence is brought to bear which illuminates the nature of roots in this model. It is argued that neither phonological properties nor semantic properties are sufficient to individuate root nodes in the syntax. In consequence, a purely formal notion of root identity is needed for use in syntactic computation, to which phonological and/or semantic properties can be attached at the relevant point, both potentially contingent upon particular morphosyntactic contexts. The conclusion is that syntactic roots are individuated as pure units of structural computation, lacking (in the syntax) both semantic content and phonological features. Following (Pfau 2000; Pfau 2009) and (Acquaviva 2008), an index notation is adopted, according to which individual syntactic roots are referred to simply by a numerical address. The idea is that the address serves as the linkage between a set of instructions for phonological realization in context and a set of instructions for semantic interpretation in context. Having established this framework, the paper asks how do root nodes behave in the syntactic component, and what kinds of conditions are imposed on their semantic and/or phonological interpretation at the interfaces? In the second half of this paper, arguments are given that roots can and do take complements and project, and again, the empirical basis for the argument draws on both semantic and morphophonological data, as well as syntactic evidence. It is clear that different morphosyntactic environments can trigger special meanings and pronunciations of roots. Some recent proposals (Marantz 2001; Marantz 2008; Arad 2003; Arad 2005) argue for a very stringent locality condition on root interpretations. With (Borer 2009), I argue that the constraints cannot be quite so restrictive, and argue for a return to the view of the relevant locality domain originally advanced in (Marantz 1995b; Marantz 1997), according to which the projection which hosts the external argument marks the domain edge.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/001527
(please use that when you cite this article, unless you want to cite the full url: http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/001527)
Published in: Ms.
keywords: roots, idioms, suppletion, allomorphy, locality, selection, morphology, syntax
previous versions: v1 [July 2011]
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