Now showing 1 - 10 of 16
  • 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
    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
    Roots, concepts, and word structure: on the atoms of lexical semantics
    (John Benjamins, 2014-01)
    This chapter examines the relation between the structure of words as linguistic objects and their conceptual content. It addresses two questions: what are the primitives of lexical semantic interpretation, and how they are expressed in the grammatical and morphological representation of a lexical item. The answer involves a characterization of roots as theoretical objects, followed by an argument to the effect that it is not roots, but larger structures of variable size which relate to lexical concepts. An in-depth discussion of nouns leads to the claim that the conceptual content of a lexical item does not reflect its grammatical structure, because a concept is not the meaning of a linguistically defined unit, but a language-external cognitive content, globally associated with the lexical word as a whole.
  • Publication
    La grammatica italiana: il lavoro comincia adesso
    (Il Mulino, 2000-06)
    Sulla terminologia è sempre necessario intendersi, ma in alcuni ambiti questo avvertimento è meno sconato che in altri. In ambito lingustico, dire "lingua" o "italian" senza prescisare di cosa si parli lascia il concetto talmente vago da essere inservibile. Di qui l'abbondanza terminologica con cui gli studi di linguistica italiana mirano a riflettere le numerose distinziono rese necessaire dall'analisi sociolinguistica: italiano popolare più o meno unitario, italiano regionale, italiono scritto / partlato, italiano standard o neo-standard, italiono dell'uso medio, è cosi via. --- The high degree of variation within the Italian-speaking community is well known; but are all Italian speakers native speakers of the same cognitive system? Contemporary syntactic research on Italian has brought to light some disagreement in acceptability judgements, often systematic. This may be evidence that varieties of Italian are distinct instantiations of Universal Grammar, which differ in what their speakers know, not just what they say. If on the other hand variation in judgements proves illusory, or idiolectal, then we must conclude that the conspicuous non-uniformity of Italian varieties conceals a unified competence, or «grammar» in the cognitive sense. Either result would greatly contribute to the understanding of the Italian linguistic situation, testifying to the fruitfulness of interaction between cognitively-oriented and historical/socio-linguistically research.
  • 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
    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
    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.
      832Scopus© Citations 3
  • Publication
    Goidelic inherent plurals and the morphosemantics of number
    (Elsevier, 2006-11)
    After numbers above 2, nouns are singular or plural depending on the language. But in Irish and Scottish some nouns must be singular and others plural, in a variety of dialectal patterns. Once the semantic basis underlying all these patterns is clarified, the ‘‘irregular’’ distribution of number in Goidelic fits neatly into the typological pattern of classifier constructions. Number seems arbitrary in some constructions, because that is where nouns are interpreted as transnumerals: apparent singulars are just numberless, and plurals are inherently plural stems. This provides a unified explanation for a host of constructions beside numeratives, and affords a deeper understanding of the way aspects of lexical semantics are encoded by number morphology.
      663Scopus© Citations 12