Now showing 1 - 10 of 16
  • Publication
    Possible Nouns for Visual Experiences: A Theory of the Vision-Language Interface
    (New Prairie Press, 2019-12) ;
    The relation between vision and language is analyzed through a formal statement of what defines objecthood in the two domains. An interpretation of independently-motivated approaches to vision and to the grammar of nominals allows us to define the connection between them as an “infomorphism” consisting of two functions. Visual and linguistic objects are only indirectly related: the functions range over types and tokens, whose map defines objecthood in each domain. We show how the inferences proved in this system are empirically correct, and we draw some conclusions about the import of our proposal on the role of language in cognition.
  • Publication
    Plural mass nouns and the compositionality of number
    (Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 2004)
    It is true that, as is well known since Allan (1980), mass and count are best seen as preferences rather than absolute values for lexical items; for instance, clothes cannot be governed by a numeral, but it tolerates the count quantifier a few. Even so, the existence of plurals that, at the very least, share some properties with mass nouns, raises questions about the chain of reasoning I have sketched out above. In fact, the assumption that plural nouns must refer to collections of individuals is simply wrong, even in languages where the number category would appear to correlate straightforwardly with the contrast between one and more than one. My first goal here will be to substantiate this empirical claim (section 2). Secondly, I will address in section 3 a theoretical question that cannot even be posed, let alone answered, without realizing that plural nouns can be non-count: the relation between semantic and morphological structure in mass plurals, whose interpretation does not seem to accord with the interpretation of the plural affix. How can a noun modified by this affix fail to denote non-singleton sets and still retain a compositional interpretation? The answer is that mass plurals are indeed semantically plural, but they refer to manifold complexes of non-individual parts. The familiar onemany contrast of book vs. books is not a primitive, defining trait of plurality, but a consequence of the semantics of the noun and of the way plurality combines with it. Variation along either of these two dimensions can bring about different readings—which are the empirical concern of this paper.
  • Publication
    Constraining inherent inflection: Number and Nominal Aspect
    (De Gruyter, 2009-07)
    Since Booij (1994, 1996) it has become increasingly clear that inflectional morphology can take part in lexeme formation and compounding. Booij (1994) recognized the need for substantive constraints on the ways inflection can feed derivation, and restricted its derivational use to deictic categories, including Number. Pursuing this search for constraints, I propose that Number is a single morphological category covering two abstract functions (cf. Beard 1995), and that it can be inherent only when it expresses the more “lexical” of those functions, and thus means more than the grammatical feature would. This “lexical” Number expresses properties of the lexeme but stands halfway between the lexical core and the properly inflectional categories. It encodes mereological (part-whole) properties of the noun’s interpretation, thus paralleling the role of Aspect in the verbal domain, and like Aspect it can be integrated to different degrees in the grammatical system of a language. In some languages, this type of information has a specific morphological expression (so-called collective affixes). In others, it appears only as non-canonical semantics (and sometimes form) for Number inflection. Inherent Number, both as a component of lexemeformation and as fixed Number value on certain nouns, consists in the expression of Nominal Aspect through the morphology of Number. Morphology is not “split”, but its uses are. Inherent inflection, specifically Number, arises in certain languages as a by-product of the separation of (morphological) form and meaning. The article develops these views by presenting first a relatively detailed exemplification from several sources (section 1), followed by some critical reflections on the peculiarities of these constructions, to the effect that inherent Number must be qualitatively different from inflectional Number (section 2). Section 3 sets out in detail the hypothesis that inherent Number is the inflectional expression of Nominal Aspect, and section 4 concludes the argument by hypothesizing that Number not only can, but must have a distinct interpretation as a lexicalized property than as a regular inflectional one.
      1325Scopus© Citations 6
  • Publication
    On the exponence of gender in the Irish DP
    (Linguistics Research Center, University of California Santa Cruz, 2018-03)
    For a language with two gender values, Irish has a surprising amount of morphological variation and instability, which emerges when looking closely at the dialects which collectively make up the language. We owe to Ó Siadhail (1984) an early formulation of the problem, which identified the key aspects of this irregularity: some nouns vary in gender value across dialects, some have alternative values in the same dialect, some display genitive endings that are characteristic of one gender value but trigger a mutation on following adjectives that expresses the other value, and some have different values (evidenced by the form of the article) in the nominative and in the genitive. In addition, the choice of the gender value for pronouns anaphoric to a DP is often not dictated by morphological agreement with the antecedent but determined on semantic grounds. The following sections will illustrate these categories with several examples; however, since more recent research has considerably sharpened the picture, my main goal will not be to describe the phenomenon. I will rather address the question of what these data can tell us about the competence underlying such puzzling behaviour. A truly satisfactory theory would model the Irish competence in such a way as to predict the boundaries of non-deterministic variation: where gender may fail to determine a certain spell-out, where it may not, and above all, why this is so. As a contribution towards that goal, this paper aims to show that the instability in the exponence of gender in the Irish DP coexists with a significant core of systematicity. This can only be appreciated if we draw a clear distinction between the two types of exponence in question, namely initial mutation (mainly lenition) and phonologically overt exponents. The latter, namely articles and nominalizing suffixes, act as overt exponents which directly spell out a gender value. Initial mutation, on the other hand, is a piece of the Irish morphological system (a morphome, in the sense introduced by Aronoff 1994; see Luís and Bermúdez-Otero 2016) which has several functions, only one of which is the marking of a configuration of gender agreement inside DP. Its realization is subject to a number of constraints, particularly complex in the case of the complement of a lexical noun. It is this relation between mutation and gender agreement that is subject to a significant weakening; when gender has a different realization, its systematic morphological realizations are stable. An empirically successful theory must account for this state of affairs.
  • Publication
    Roots and Lexicality in Distributed Morphology
    (University of York. Department of Language and Linguistic Science, 2009-05)
    This paper examines the nature and content of morphological roots in relation to their syntactic context. A careful consideration of doublets, where the same root may take alternative noun - inherent features, leads to the claim that roots do not carry selectional features or class diacritics. Relying on the distinction between syntactic nodes and their exponents, central to a realizational model like Distributed Morphology, I argue that the syntactic atoms corresponding to root nodes are associated with open - class exponents but not with a specific meaning that might select a licensing syntactic context. "Lexical" meaning arises constructionally, and so do lexical properties like gender or class, which however emerge at Vocabulary insertion and may show selectional properties. Content and exponence of roots are thus dissociated, in line with the separationist character of Distributed Morphology. This predicts the existence of root - like elements with mixed status, namely open - class exponents used as grammatical morphemes (like auxiliaries or classifiers), or category - free root extensions below the innermost category - assigning head (like de- in de-struction).
  • Publication
    Distributing roots: Listemes across components in Distributed Morphology
    (De Gruyter, 2014-10-04)
    One of the merits of the target article is to bring into sharp focus some of the fundamental issues that a syntax-based approach raises about knowledge of language and knowledge of the primitive elements in the various linguistic interfaces. Questions about roots, then, amount to questions on what a syntax-based model of grammar like DM has to say about lexical knowledge. The comments that follow centre on two such issues: the relations between the lists into which DM distributes lexical knowledge, and the nature of roots as morphological objects.
    Scopus© Citations 4  440
  • Publication
    The morphological dimension of polarity licensing
    (De Gruyter, 2002)
    Polarity items must, by definition, fit inside the scope of their licenser; items like any N, in addition, appear to require a c-commanding and overt licenser. It is argued that the relevant restriction refers to precedence, not e-command, and that it is morphological, not syntactic. This implies a morphological dimension of dependence, in addition to the semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic ones. The analysis relies on the separation between syntax and a postsyntactic morphological component: the exponents of the relevant polarity items require an [operator] feature that never appears in the corresponding feature bundle at the output of syntax. This mismatch is resolved by copying the feature from the licensing operator, provided it is present at morphological structure (overt) and linearly preceding.
      940Scopus© Citations 3
  • Publication
    Lexical decomposition meets conceptual atomism
    (Società Editrice il Mulino, 2012-07) ;
    Asking what can be a substantive word in natural language is closely related to asking what can be a lexical concept. However, studies on lexical concepts in cognitive psychology, philosophy and linguistics have little contact with each other. We argue i) that linguistic analyses of lexical items as grammatical structures do not map naturally to plausible models of the concepts corresponding to these lexical items and ii) that roots cannot encapsulate the conceptual content of a lexical item. Instead,we delineate a notion of syntactic root, distinct from that of morphological root: syntactic roots are name-tags, indices, establishing lexical identity for grammatical structures. This makes it possible to view basic lexical items as mappings between syntactically complex structures, identified by their root, with simplex concepts, where the constructional meaning of the former constrains the content of the latter. This can lead to predictive hypotheses about the possible content of lexical items in natural language.
      585Scopus© Citations 10