Lexicon and Grammar

This book focuses on the need for a formal lexical theory. It defends a syntactic approach in terms of c-selection (subcategorization) for capturing the patterns and structural generalizations projected from the English lexicon, and argues against the use of thematic grids or lexical conceptual structures in grammatical computation. The theory of c-selection is sharpened in terms of feature-based subcategorization, and constructions usually taken to justify s-selection are shown to be better analyzed without it. For example, the book argues against widely discussed analyses of "unprojected arguments" for null complement anaphora and null generic objects.

The lexicon in this extended theory of c-selection consists of two quite different components, a "Syntacticon" of closed classes and a Dictionary of more contentful open class lexical items. The Syntacticon is regulated by a newly developed theory of multi-level lexical insertion: an item's feature composition determines at which level it satisfies c-selection.

The book also argues against any autonomous "morphological component." Rather, the only statements needed for morphology are those with phonological effects, perhaps conditioned by syntactic factors. Bound morphology is thus reduced to the combinatory syntax of free morphemes, and becomes a special case of compounding. The theory of multi-level insertion applied to bound morphology provides novel explanations for many previously unexplained complex morpho-syntactic patterns in e.g., Germanic and Romance passives and perfects.

The Syntacticon also induces "flat structures" for many recalcitrant syntactic constructions. The books shows that the similar properties of causative, restructuring, light and linking verbs all result from similar flat structures. The explanations crucially exploit the notion of "empty underlying head." In general, the book demonstrates that familiar classes of English and Romance complements instantiate all and only the predicted c-selection frames and thus identifies the limits which Universal Grammar imposes on the construct "possible lexical entry."