Dec 15, 2007

A Rough Sketch for Defining Affix(ation)

Have I kept you waiting?

I note some point to analyze affixes in sophisticated morphosyntactic theory.

Affixes and Affixations

First, we should distinguish between the operation "Affixation" and the morphological class "Affix" clearly in order to realize problems of affix accurately because it seems that not all affixes undergo some sort of affixation.
Briefly speaking, it is not necessarily the case that every affix is derived directly by the morphological (or phonological) operation.

A tentative definition of "Affix"

It is obvious that the class "affix" cannot be defined phonologically or semantically, namely neither phonological littleness nor every semantic character is sufficient to condition being an affix. As for phonological conditions, we easily come up with a pair of an affix and a word which have the same phonological volume and, similarly, many languages have a pair of an affix and a word which have the (almost) same meaning.
Consequently, I temporarily define the class "Affix" as follows,

(1) A tentative definition of "Affix"
A set of morphemes which can exist only in the local domain of other morphemes.

Affixes without affixations

According to the above definition, we can assume that there are affixes which do not undergo an affixation. Furthermore, they can be divided into two groups, a) bound morphemes which are externally merged directly in the local domain of other morphemes, and b) bound morphemes which are moved into the local domain of other morphemes at the stage of the narrow syntax.
In the latter case, the movement might be head movement. If so, we may get a story for explaining a relationship between head movement and affixation (see the previous article on head movement).

Affixes through affixations

In terms of affixations as morphological or phonological operations, we already have some important works. For instance, see Embick and Noyer (2001) on an affixation as a morphological operation or a phonological (post-morphological) operation and Embick(2007) especially on some sorts of phonological one.

What kinds of local domains do relate?

Embick and Noyer (2001) also defines two types of local domains which must be valuable to analyze affixes in the field of formal morphosyntactic theory: "M-Word" and "S-Word", which were considered for more detail in Embick (2007).


There are possible sorts of affixes as follows.

(2)Affixes (, which must be in the local domain of other morphemes.)
a. not undergo affixations
--1. externally merged
--2. head-moved
b. undergo affixations
--1. by a morphological operation: morphological merger
--2. by a phonological (post-morphological) operation: local dislocation

Moreover, the local dislocation have some subclassifications. See Embick (2007).


  • Embick, David and Rolf Noyer(2001) “Movement operations after syntax,” Linguistic Inquiry 32: 555-595.

  • Embick, David (To appear) “ Linearization and Local Dislocation: Derivational mechanics and interactions,” Linguistic Analysis.

Dec 5, 2007

Paper info: Embick "Variation and morphosyntactic theory"

Embick, David (to appear) "Variation and morphosyntactic theory: Competition fractionated," to appear in Language and Linguistics Compass. downloadable from the Embick's website on UPenn

  • How can dynamic aspects of language-variation and change- be treated in formal morphosyntactic theory?

  • On the notion "competition": competition for grammaticality, competition for use, modularity, and their relation.

  • How does Distributed Morphology define competition and analyze blocking phenomena?

  • Two stances for some doublet phenomena (e.g. "dove" and "dived" for a past form of "dive"): Competition Grammar theory and some "gradient" and "probabilistic" theories.

  • Movement phenomena in English, Middle English, and Belfast English

Nov 30, 2007

Paper info: Ishihara "Prosody-Scope relations in Japanese Wh-questions"

Ishihara, Shinichiro (2005) "Prosody-Scope Match and Mismatch in Tokyo Japanese Wh-questions," English Linguistics 22:2. downloadable from the Ishihara's website on University of Potsdam

  • His experiments show scope-prosody matches and mismatches in Japanese Wh-questions.

  • A multiple spell-out account explains both correspondences.

  • He assumes a direct relation between syntax and phonetic component (without phonological representations).

  • He assumes F0-boosting on the focused phrase, post-focus reduction, and pitch reset after FI domain.

Paper info: Marantz "Phases and Words"

Marantz, Alec (to appear) "Phases and Words," downloadable from the Marantz's website on NYU

  • Phases within words

  • Phasehood of Passive and Unaccusative v's

  • Icelandic long-distance agreements

  • Malayalam lexical causatives

Nov 21, 2007

Note on Ellipsis: How and where do we lose it?

Natural languages have a wide variety of ellipsis phenomena.
"Ellipsis" can be defined as that an element lacks its phonological contents while it has syntactic, semantic, or pragmatic contents.
You know, it is a difficult question: how and in which component does the element lose its phonological contents?

I think, along the line of minimalist spirit, we can not take a stance of assuming that ellipsis is a purely syntactic operation (of cource, you can "assume" ellipsis as a syntactic operation in addition to MERGE and AGREE).

n.b. I refer "elliptical operation" itself in this short article. Some elliptical constructions perhaps are derived by syntactic movements (e.g. ATB-movement analysis for English gapping).

I note some ways (possiblities) of ellipsis from the view point of Distributed Morphology (If you want to know details of the model of grammar in Distributed Morphology, see Embick and Noyer (2001)).

1. Operation before Lexical Insertion (after Spell-out)

In Distributed Morphology, it is assumed that lexical items which include their phonological features are inserted post-syntactically, that is, after spell-out. The component between spell-out and lexical insertion is called "Morphology", where there are not phonological features but (morpho)syntactic features although it is a part of PF.
So, strictly speaking, the following two ways are not phonological but PF-related.

1.1. Eliminating some part of nodes at Morphology
Embick and Noyer(2007) indicates that there is an operation which add a new node to the output of syntax at Morphology. The operation "Eliminating nodes" could be a counterpart of it. Losing nodes means losing a place which lexical insertion applies to, so we elide some phonological contents.

1.2. Not occuring lexical insertion
Wilder(1997) suggests this way. He regards a certain type of ellipsis as a result of not occuring lexical insertion to some part of the tree. A diffrence from the above way is that he does not assume any elliptical operation. However, he does not refer to the detail of the process.

Ellipsis which is a result of both ways should be sensitive to syntactic or morphocyntactic constituency.

n.b. So far, I have no idea about empirical evidences to distinguish the above two. They actually could be identical process of ellipsis.

2. Operation in the phonological component: Eliminating phonological features

This operation is applied to at least after lexical insertion. I guess number of researchers suppose this way when they say "ellipsis as a PF operation".

Ellipsis which is caused by this operation could be sensitive to phonological constituency: prosodic word, minor or majour phrase, intonational phrase, and so on.

Of course, there is no necessity that every kind of ellipsis should be caused by one of the above three.


  • Embick, David and Rolf Noyer(2001) “Movement operations after syntax,” Linguistic Inquiry 32: 555-595.

  • Embick, David and Rolf Noyer(2007) “Distributed Morphology and the Syntax/Morphology Interface,” The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Interfaces. G. Ramchand and C. Reiss (eds.), Oxford University Press.

  • Wilder, Chris(1997) “Some Properties of Ellipsis in Coordination,” Studies on Universal Grammar and Typological Variation. Artemis Alexiadou and T. Alan Hall (ed.), 59-107, John Benjamins Pub Co.

Nov 19, 2007

How should we formalize Head Movement?

Head Movement (henceforth, HM) has been one of the most important notion to analyze not only many "flip" phenomena (e.g. Subject-Aux Inversion in European languages) but also the syntax-morphology relationship since Baker(1988).
However, especially in the Minimalist literature, its theoretical status as a syntactic operation has been doubted since Chomsky(1995) though it is still important for various analyses which include a lot of interface studies.
I will show some points of this issue (This article is still a draft, so I keep enriching the content and collecting related papers).

Theoretical problems of HM (Matushansky(2006))

  1. violate structure preservation: HM changes the projection status of the moving head (from minimal to maximal)
  2. violate cyclicity: HM does not extend the root of the tree.

Differences between HM and phrasal movement(Matushansky(2006))

  1. The probe and the target act as one constituent after HM, but not after phrasal movement.

  2. Neither the probe nor the target can be extracted after HM: ban on excorporation

  3. HM is more local than phrasal movement: Head Movement Constraint(Travis(1984), Baker(1988))

  4. HM feeds affixation; phrasal movement does not.

  5. HM seems to have no semantic or syntactic effects, but phrasal movement does.

Some positions

  1. HM as phonological or PF-related movement: Chomsky(1995), Hale and Keyser(2002), Harley (2002, 2003)
  2. HM is syntactic, but it can be reduced to other syntactic movement: Koopman(2005), Matushansky(2006)
  3. HM is NOT phonological but syntactic: Lechner(2005), Fitzpatrick(2006)

HM bibliography

  • Baker, Mark C.(1988) Incorporation: A Theory of Grammatical Function Changing. The University of Chicago Press.

  • Chomsky, Noam(1995) The Minimalist Program. MIT Press.

  • Fitzpatrick, Jastin M.(2006) "Deletion Through Movement," Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 24: 399-431.

  • Hale, Ken and Samuel Jay Keyser(2002) Prolegomenon to a Theory of Argument Structure. MIT Press.

  • Harley, Heidi(2002) “Why one head is better than two: Head movement and compounding as consequences of Merge in Bare Phrase Structure,” A paper presented in the Arizona Linguistics Colloquium Series.

  • Harley, Heidi(2003) “Merge, Conflation, and Head Movement: The First Sister Principle Revisited,” NELS 34 Proceedings, 239-254.

  • Koopman, Hilda(2005) “Korean (and Japanese) Morphology from a Syntactic Perspective,” Linguistic Inquiry 36(4): pp.601-633.

  • Lechner, Winfried(2005) “Semantic Effects of Head Movement,” ms.

  • Matushansky, Ora(2006) “Head movement in Linguistic Theory,” Linguistic Inquiry. 37(1): pp.69-109.

  • Travis, Lisa(1984) Parameters and Effects of Word Order Variation. Ph.D.Dissertation, MIT.

Nov 17, 2007


This blog will provide various information and discussions on interface studies in the field of linguistics.
I roughly define the notion "interface" as interaction between any two components of human language's system; syntax, phonology, semantics and so on. However, I will probably focus on more specific topics, namely, interface studies in Generative linguistics along with my interest.

My interest, specializations and examples of topics are as follows,
-Syntax-Phonology/Morphology/Semantics interface
-Distributed Morphology
-Word formation (lexicon-grammar interface)
-Roles of locality and cyclicity in any components of the grammar
-Status of morphophonological phenomena and phonological component
-Topics on Japanese grammar; conjugation, Case and case, voice, focus particles, modal predicates
...and so on.

Since the beginning of 90', studies on interface have been accelerated by development of two theories in generative linguistics; Minimalist Program and Distributed Morphology. I guess these studies have an impact on general linguistic theories beyond the boundaries of generative grammar.

I will try to collect and organize diverse information on these topics and indicate bases of discussions.

Finally, you know, this small project is also my training of English writing.