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Conference Information

Full Title: DGfS 2014 Workshop: Labels and Roots

Location: Marburg, Hesse, Germany
Start Date: 05-Mar-2014 - 07-Mar-2014
Contact: Erich Groat
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: Workshop 'Labels and Roots' at the annual conference of the DGfS, University of Marburg, 2014


Erich Groat
Leah Bauke
Andreas Blümel
(Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main)

Invited Speakers:

Hagit Borer (Queen Mary University of London)
Daniel Seely (Eastern Michigan University)


In syntactic and morphological theory, complex structures are assumed to be composed of subparts: A=[B C]. The objects A, B, and C each have properties determining their distribution, i.e. their interactions with other objects: what other objects they can be combined with, how they are interpreted semantically and phonologically, whether and where they can move, and so on. We may call these properties their 'labels,' describing their syntactic or morphological category.

What is the relation between the label of an object and the label of its pieces? In the era of tree structures and phrase-structure rules, the label of A bore a stipulated, theoretically unconstrained relation to the labels of its parts, B and C. X-bar theory (Chomsky 1970, Jackendoff 1977) drastically changed this picture, suggesting an endocentric model of syntax (and morphology) in which only lexical features found in either B or C form the basis of A's label: the lexical category features of only one word, the head of the phrase, always projects. More recent approaches have moved towards deriving endocentricity by a general labeling algorithm, tacitly questioning not only the role syntactic category values (v, n, C, T, etc.) play, either for the interfaces, for syntax or both, but also the uniqueness requirement for heads for a given phrase (Pesetsky 1982, Chomsky & Lasnik 1993, Collins 2002, Seely 2006, Boeckx, 2009, to appear, Chomsky 2004, 2007, 2008, 2013).

A distinct but related branch of research attempts to determine semantic and syntactic contributions lexical categories make for the combinatorial system, as in the study of argument structure. How do we account for the morphosyntactic behavior of 'root' elements, and what role do labels play in their behavior? Approaches to questions like these vary. Ramchand (2008) decomposes lexical meanings, locating their subparts on functional material above the lexical stem: functional material overdetermines lexical meanings. In an attempt to eradicate the massive redundancy at the lexicon-syntax interface, the exoskeletal approach to syntax (Borer 2005a & 2005b et seq, de Belder 2011) characterizes lexical roots as having no intrinsic label and as being unable to project. Rather, the specific syntactic configuration under which these roots are merged determines their category and their specific semantic contribution. In a similar vein, in Distributive Morphology (Marantz 1997 et seq, Harley 2005) it is argued that roots are categoryless lexical items whose category is determined by the categorial functional head they are merged with. Despite significant differences, all of these approaches provide the theory with greater restrictiveness, capture important empirical generalizations and also pave the way for deeper consideration of this fundamental issue of roots, labels and the nature of lexical categories.
Linguistic Subfield: Linguistic Theories; General Linguistics; Morphology; Syntax
LL Issue: 24.2890

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