Conditions On Empty (Allo-)Morphs: Two Types Of Lexical Access

by Joseph Emonds


Phonologically null morphemes, i.e. empty X0 arising neither from movement or copying, are an interesting issue in the study of possible lexical entries. First, despite claims to the contrary, they seem limited to the purely grammatical part of the lexicon, the ``Syntacticon.'' Second, they are among the items that show that this Syntacticon is not organized or accessed by phonology, in contrast to the open class Dictionary. In particular, this essay shows that both types of access involve testable, differing claims as to the expected ranges of lexical properties. Third, empty grammatical items strictly conform to a ``Generalized Invisible Category Principle,'' which requires interpretable features of non-anaphoric empty categories to be present in their immediate context. These results suggest a model of a syntactic derivation that consists of a local algorithm for filling in syntactic ``slots'' with appropriate grammatical items, with phonology in this phase of computation being entirely secondary.

This essay discusses whether and to what extent Universal Grammar and/or lexicons of individual grammars include optional and/or obligatory null morphemes. Although this issue intrigued structuralist linguists from de Saussure to Z. Harris, only recently has it attracted attention in generative syntax. By null morpheme is meant an empty category that arises neither from principles of ellipsis nor (as a trace or copy of) movement. In bar notation terms the question might be put, under what conditions can such phonetically unrealized or ``empty'' morphemes appear as X0 projections in surface structure or PF?

One rather obvious restriction on empty X0 is that while there may exist some unpronounced grammatical elements (one can think of arbitrary PRO, empty complementizers, null suffixes in agreement paradigms, understood copulas, etc.), a fully empty open class item is unconceivable. We begin by trying to understand this difference.

 
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