Hagit Borer

Building Syntax

  • Teacher: Hagit Borer (Queen Mary, University of London)
  • Theme: Spell-Out
  • Slot: 10.45-12.45 (parallel session 1)
  • Reading list


Grammatical theories, of all ilks, assume an inventory of (atomic) building
blocks, to which combinatorial principles apply to create complexity.  What
the relevant building blocks are, however, is not universally agreed upon,
and yet, it is the properties of such building blocks that determine, more
than anything else, the nature of possible and impossible combinatorial
operations.  To illustrate, if ‘words’ constitute an (atomic) syntactic
building block, then the internal structure of words cannot be the output of
syntactic combinatorial principles.  Not so, however, if the relevant
building blocks are ‘affixes’ or ‘roots’ or ‘features’.  Similarly, if both
‘functional’ terminals and ‘lexical’ terminals project, the resulting syntax
is rather distinct from a syntax in which only ‘functional’ terminals
project.  Both, in turn, are distinct from a syntax in which no labels, as
such, are atomic, and rather, it is e.g. cat and the which project, and
labels, whether D or N, are not themselves independent building blocks.

The purpose of this course is to investigate the properties of potential
syntactic building blocks so as to give rise to clear diagnostics for what
are (or aren’t) categorial labels (‘functional’ and ‘lexical;); what are (or
aren’t) segments of extended projections, what are (or aren’t) syntactic
functions, and what are (or aren’t) roots.  On our way, we will be studying
the properties of complex words, the properties of extended projections, and
a number of interfaces, specifically those which give rise to phonological
realization, and those that interface between the grammar and the conceptual

Reading list