Lexicon and Grammar: The English Syntacticon

Lexicon and Grammar: The English Syntacticon

Lexicon and Grammar: The English Syntacticon

Lexicon and Grammar: The English Syntacticon


This book focuses on the need for a formal lexical theory, in particular one in which lexical insertion occurs at three derivational levels. Its syntactic, subcategorization-based approach fully analyses constructions such as caus-actives, light verbs, nominalization, null arguments, passives, perfects, and pseudo-partitives. Rich empirical treatments based on English, French, Italian, and Japanese further claim that morphology should be fully integrated into syntax.

Theoretical constructs of Economy and Abstract Case are reformulated as conditions at three interfaces: the Dictionary, Logical Form, and Phonological Form.


This book focuses on the urgent need for a formal, constrained and empirically revealing theory of a syntactic lexicon. To satisfy this need, it proposes new principles regulating subcategorization which determine how syntactic structures project from a language’s lexicon. In the theory developed here, the trees projected by lexical subcategorization frames are not always copies of the frames themselves, as they are in the first classical proposals of Chomsky’s (1965) Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. This study’s highly restrictive sub-theories of grammatical categories and features, abstract case, derivational levels and economy principles have the consequence that sisterhood between a selecting and selected element is only subcategorization’s “simplest case.”

The data and paradigms here are for the most part drawn from English, but properties of Romance languages also form an essential part of the argumentation, and some points are discussed in terms of constructions from yet other languages, especially Japanese.

This study defends a strictly syntactic approach to the lexicon, i.e. it elaborates a theory of c-selection (subcategorization) and argues against the use of any thematic grids or lexical conceptual structures in grammatical computation. Constructions which have been widely invoked as necessarily involving semantic selection, such as the spray/ load alternation, propositional complements, light verbs and understood arguments are shown to be better analyzed without it (cf. especially Chapters 2,6 and 9). A central organizing factor for this approach to the lexicon is a crucial distinction between an item’s “cognitive syntactic” features F used in syntactic derivations and its “purely semantic” features ƒ which are not (Chapter 1). The first use of the former (Chapter 2) sharpens the theory of c-selection by using these features in lexical frames (e.g., +___ANIMATE rather than +___DP and +___PATH rather than +___PP).

The principal innovation based on the F/f distinction is the proposal in Chapter 3 that the lexicon consists of two quite different components, a grammatical lexicon bereft of purely semantic features (the “Syntacticon”) and a mental lexicon which consists of the open classes of the more specified contentful lexical items (the “Dictionary,” which is the faculty of human linguistic memory and culture). There are only four categories in the Dictionary (N, V, A and P), what I term “nature’s bottleneck” in a final . . .

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