Tom Meadows (QMUL) - 2019-20 Students

The analysis of suspended affixation: coordination, morphosyntax and the architecture of the language faculty

In languages like Turkish, words seem to be obligatorily composed of various morphemes that signal grammatical information, such as tense or agreement. When these inflected words are coordinated, some of them need not display these morphemes without an impact on their interpretation. Let’s call this phenomenon “suspended affixation” (or SA). SA raises some general questions: Which kinds of morphemes can be suspended? How should we explain a morpheme’s capacity to be suspended? What implications does SA have for the human language faculty? This project approaches these questions from the perspective of Minimalist generative grammar (see e.g. Chomsky 1995), where the mental rule systems or grammars associated with languages are investigated. Different analyses of SA are possible thanks to the general structure of grammars that is assumed in the Minimalist framework, which is divided into components that deal with different kinds of information (syntactic, semantic, phonological, morphological). To resolve this dilemma we need to consider both the “internal” properties of different components and how these components interact. This project can illuminate some fundamental issues in linguistic theory: the connection between a) phonological form and meaning b) syntactic structure and word structure. The insight from Chomsky (1957, 1965) was that we need a syntactic theory that doesn’t reduce to a theory of e.g. semantics or phonology. There are two controversial extensions to this idea. Parallels in the structure of words and phrases have led to debate about whether syntactic structure organizes units that compose words themselves, leaving words as epiphenomenal residue. More broadly syntactic structure is often argued to inform semantic and phonological components, whilst these components are blind to each other (the “Inverted Y” model). By organizing different components of grammar, syntactic structure would then be crucial to creating meaningful phrases with phonological content.

Back to the top