Swiss National Funds research project
"The Interface of Morphology, Syntax and the Lexicon"
This project explores the syntactic and lexical information encoded in the morphology of the verbal system. This issue bears on the more general question, which is at the core of current linguistics theory and concerns the modes of interaction of three primary components of grammar: the lexicon, the syntax and morphology.
We examine the verbal morphology of Germanic (English), Romance (French and Italian) and Semitic (Hebrew) against the background of the rich body of work on the syntax-lexicon interface and on morphology which has accumulated in recent years. In particular, we adopt a constructionist approach to the syntax-lexicon interface (viz. Borer 1994, van Hout 1996, Arad 1998), namely, an approach in which the syntactic structure in which the verb appears has a cardinal role in determining its precise interpretation. We also adopt an approach to morphology along the lines of Halle and Marantz 1993, Marantz 1997 according to which morphological operations take place in the syntax rather than in the lexicon, and that the syntax «sees» only abstract features, and not actual phonological items.
While the patterns of interaction between the syntax and the lexicon are assumed to be universal, they are not always morphologically transparent, in particular in the fusional systems of Germanic and Romance. Hebrew, however, like other Semitic languages, retains the distinction between lexico-phonological roots and morphosyntactic form. It is, therefore, an ideal language to test the division of labor between the three components. A close study of Hebrew will hence shed light not only on the syntax-lexicon division of labor in Romance and Germanic but will enhance our understanding of the interaction of the different modules consituting the human linguistic faculty, with direct implications for language acquisition and processing.