Roots and Affixes: Eliminating lexical categories from syntax
Marijke De Belder
June 2011

This thesis is an investigation into the primitives of syntax. More specifically, it focuses on two domains: the lexical projection and categorial features. Analogously, it consists of two parts. The first part argues that the features of lexical vocabulary items are not an active part of the syntactic derivation (cf. Borer 2005). I provide empirical support for the claim that vocabulary items are not present in syntax. Consequently, lexical nodes canot be defined through the merger of a lexical vocabulary item. Furthermore, lexical vocabulary items cannot determine the (sub)category of the projection. Instead, this dissertation adopts the view that syntax operates on UG-features only. It argues that the root terminal node is a by-product of the operation Merge that is characterized by the mere absence of features (cf. De Belder & van Craenenbroeck 2011). It further shows that functional structure determines subcategories. In the second part of the thesis I argue against the existence of categorial heads. It is generally assumed that derivational affixes realize categorial heads (see for example Marchand 1969, Williams 1981, Selkirk 1982 and Halle and Marantz 1993, amongst many others). I argue against this view and propose instead that derivational affixes realize root positions. I show that the meaning of derivational affixes is lexical and hence propose to treat them as lexical rather than functional vocabulary items. Furthermore, I show that the same descriptive and explanatory adequacy can be obtained without postulating categorial heads. The conclusion of both parts is that lexical categorial features are no longer a primitive of syntax. This work can be situated both in Distributed Morphology (Halle & Marantz 1997) and the Exo-Skeletal Model (Borer 2005).
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/001280
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Doctoral dissertation, Utrecht University/UiL-OTS & HUBrussel/CRISSP
keywords: roots, derivation, affixes, distributed morphology, exo-skeletal model, lexical categories, mass-count, diminutive, morphology, syntax
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