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The syntax-morphology relation

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Anders Holmberg


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We review and discuss some issues to do with the relation between morphology and syntax which have played a prominent part in generative linguistic research in the past three decades. Focusing on verbal inflection, we first discuss the relation between inflection and verb placement, with special attention given to verb-initial languages. We then discuss the relation between pro-drop and agreement, where we articulate a partly new understanding of Huang’s (1989) generalization that pro-drop is characteristic of languages with rich agreement and languages with no agreement, but not languages that are in-between. We then present and discuss the Mirror Principle, one of the most significant findings in recent linguistic research. We pay special attention to the Mirror Principle as it applies in head-final languages, in the context of a model adopting Kayne’s (1994) Linear Correspondence Axiom. The idea is to show how fairly complex aspects of clausal syntax, including word order and the possibility of phonetically silent arguments of a predicate, may be correlated with readily observable and, in themselves, rather simple properties of verbal inflection, and to show how, given a restrictive theory of Universal Grammar, this follows from the fact that inflections are syntactic categories, albeit realized as parts of words.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Holmberg A, Roberts I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Lingua

Year: 2013

Volume: 130

Pages: 111-131

Print publication date: 04/12/2012

ISSN (print): 0024-3841

ISSN (electronic): 1872-6135

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2012.10.006

Notes: Special issue of Lingua: Syntax and cognition: core ideas and results in syntax, edited by Luigi Rizzi.


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