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Conference Information

Full Title: Roots V

Location: London, United Kingdom
Start Date: 17-Jun-2017 - 18-Jun-2017
Contact: Melisa Rinaldi
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: Roots V will be hosted by the Department of Linguistics of Queen Mary, University of London and the Department of Linguistics of University College London on June 17-18, 2017 (with an opening session on the evening of June 16).

Organizers: Hagit Borer (QMUL), Andrew Nevins (UCL)

The relationship between syntactic structure and syntactic terminals has always been at the core of important debates within generative grammar. Are such terminals phonologically abstract or concrete? Do they correspond to features, to 'morphemes', or are they fully listed items, possibly 'words' or 'lexemes'? If the latter, do such terminals correspond to well-defined units of meaning? Do they have syntactic properties which inform the structure they project, or do the properties of terminals derive from the structure that they are embedded within, and with the structure itself otherwise constructed? Finally, are there 'syntactic terminals' in the commonly understood sense altogether?

In the past two decades or so, a body of research has emerged which seeks to disassociate the hitherto assumed link between syntactic terminals and 'words' or 'lexemes'. In their stead, the syntactic terminals of functional heads are frequently assumed to consist of abstract formal features which are phonologically realized post-syntactically, while non-functional terminals are frequently assumed to consist of roots, with the latter presumed to have no syntactic category, and little, if any, other properties which could impact the syntax. Within such approaches, the 'lexeme' as such, is at best a derivative notion, and the 'word' is treated as an emerging configuration created by syntactic combinatorial processes, and corresponding, within any given phonological system, to some well-formed phonotactic unit (e.g., the domain of main stress in English).

This research agenda remains incomplete, however, without a fuller theoretical articulation of the way in which the combination of roots and formal features conspire to give rise to the properties traditionally associated with 'words' or 'lexemes'.

Constructive dialogues intending to elaborate on the properties of roots have informed a series of workshops in the past 9 years, and we view this workshop as the latest among them, bringing together researchers working within different approaches to discuss the place of roots in present day linguistic modeling:

1. Can roots be inserted in any syntactic context (with clashes conceptually and contextually excluded), or do roots come with some properties that delimit their syntactic insertion (e.g. ontological types or selected arguments)?
2. How does syntactic category come about, in the absence of listed categorical specification for roots?
3. What (if any) are the phonological properties of roots? Is there root suppletion? Do roots exercise (morpho)phonological selection, and if so, how is it delimited?
4. What (if any) are the phonological realizations of formal features (Vocabulary items, in DM)? Can Vocabulary Items exercise (morpho)phonological selection?
5. What (if any) are the semantic properties of roots? Do roots have meaning, or content, in isolation? How do they acquire content in context?
6. How can we model the non-compositional content of complex words? Note that this is a question regardless of whether roots in isolation have content.
7. What psycho- and neurolinguistic evidence can be brought to bear on the existence of roots as well as possibly formal features as syntactic terminals?

Invited Speakers:

Edit Doron (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Noam Faust (Université Paris 8)
Heidi Harley (University of Arizona)
Jason Merchant (University of Chicago)
Neil Myler (Boston University)
Adam Ussishkin (University of Arizona)
Linguistic Subfield: General Linguistics; Morphology; Phonology; Semantics; Syntax
LL Issue: 28.915

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