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Approaches to Morphosemantics


Approaches to Morphosemantics

To what extent do the morphological and syntactic composition of words and phrases reflect the composition of their meanings? Do crosslinguistic differences in morphosyntax reflect differences in the primitives of semantic composition? Is there a uniform underlying syntactic representation for certain kinds of meanings across classes of lexeme introducing them and across languages? This class explores two contrasting views about the morphosyntax/semantics interface which make different predictions about the answers to such questions:

(i) Morphosemantic uniformity: The morphosyntactic component is much more uniform, both language internally and crosslinguistically, than is apparent on the surface.  Two methodological operating assumptions are:

MU1: Evidence for morphological and/or syntactic structure and its semantic reflex in a language L is evidence for its morphosyntactic and semantic presence in another language L', even if there is no overt morphophonological evidence for said structure in L'.

MU2: Evidence for the presence of some functional head F introducing a set of lexical entailments is evidence for its morphosyntactic presence whenever these entailments can be truth-conditionally detected, even if there is no morphophonological evidence for F.

(ii) Morphosemantic transparency: The elements of morphology and syntax observed on the surface, and only those elements, are those that form the input to semantic composition. Absent (morphophonological or syntactic) evidence to the contrary, there are no phonologically null morphosyntactic elements, and as a consequence, no primitives of semantic composition without phonologically observable morphological or syntactic reflexes.

Course Status: Closed

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First two-week Session


Tuesday: 8:30 am-10:20 am
Friday: 8:30 am-10:20 am




Graduate level introduction to syntax and graduate level introduction to semantics.