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LINGUIST List 19.3733

Fri Dec 05 2008

Diss: Syntax: Mirto: 'The Syntax of the Meronymic Construction'

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        1.    Ignazio Mirto, The Syntax of the Meronymic Construction

Message 1: The Syntax of the Meronymic Construction
Date: 05-Dec-2008
From: Ignazio Mirto <ignaziomirtounipa.it>
Subject: The Syntax of the Meronymic Construction
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Institution: Cornell University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 1997

Author: Ignazio Mauro Mirto

Dissertation Title: The Syntax of the Meronymic Construction

Linguistic Field(s): Syntax

Subject Language(s): Amharic (amh)
                            Korean (kor)
                            Lakota (lkt)

Dissertation Director:
Wayne Harbert
John Whitman
Carol G. Rosen

Dissertation Abstract:

This work proposes a formal account of the syntactic devices languages use
to express the meronymic (part-whole) relation. The languages treated -
Korean, Lakota, Amharic - have a clause type that allows for meronymic
pairs only: a semantic constraint excludes pairs of nouns expressing
kinship and ownership, while the two types of nouns underlying the
meronymic relation, i.e. body parts and spatial nouns, are allowed. This
clause type is semantically constrained in another respect: the event or
state expressed by the predicate must be one involving not the whole, but
just a part of the referent that the noun denotes. Thus predicates like
'hit' turn out to be compatible with the meronymic construction, while
predicates like 'carry' are not. Alongside these semantic constraints,
syntactic tests reveal an asymmetry between the noun denoting the whole
(holonym) and that denoting the part (meronym). Only the former can be the
target of relativization, topicalization, and passivization.

The structure envisaged here is a union - Meronymic Union (MU) - that
automatically entails both the semantic and the syntactic limitations
characterizing the meronymic construction. The syntactic inertness of the
meronym is accounted for by analyzing it as a noun predicate, while the
inaccessibility of non-meronymic pairs and the exclusion of such predicates
as 'carry' follow from the presence of an ENLARGED ARGUMENT, namely a noun
apparently denoting the whole, but whose actual referent is only a part of
the whole. This result is attained with a new notation for heads of arcs
which makes the referent of a holonym a sub-area of what the same noun
would normally denote.

The Union produced by the serialization of the noun predicate (meronym)
with the ensuing predicate (verbal or adjectival) gives rise to a 2-hood
constraint: the enlarged argument can only be the object of a transitive or
unaccusative predicate. The incompatibility of unergatives with MU is
expected and derives from the Union Law and the Compactness Principle.

Chapters 2-4 treat Korean, Lakota, and Amharic respectively. Chapter 5
shows the reasons to prefer MU over possessor ascension, while the appendix
discusses other languages with constructions involving meronyms and
holonyms. Certain clause types of Mandarin Chinese appear to be amenable to
an MU analysis, whereas others present in some Australian languages do not.

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