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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - Argument structure


Argument structure

In the previous chapter, the interface between morphology and syntax was considered, including the relationship between features of items drawn from the lexicon and abstract features in the syntactic representation. The present chapter explores other properties of the L2 lexicon, particularly the relationship between lexical semantics, argument structure and syntax. The concern is with how certain aspects of meaning (the semantic primitives by which word meanings can be expressed, the event types expressed by verbs, the thematic roles of arguments) are realized in syntax, as well as the morphological forms by which such meanings are expressed.

Detailed investigation of L2 argument structure in the generative framework is relatively recent. In this chapter, the following issues will be discussed: (i) semantic constraints on argument-structure alternations; (ii) crosslinguistic differences in how semantic primitives may combine or conflate; (iii) thematic properties of arguments and how they are realized syntactically; (iv) the effects of morphology which adds or suppresses arguments. We begin with a consideration of the kind of information that is encoded in a lexical entry and how this information is mapped to the syntax.

Lexical entries

Lexical entries include distinct types of information, semantic and syntactic (e.g. Baker 1997; Grimshaw 1990; Hale and Keyser 1993; Jackendoff 1990; Levin and Rappaport-Hovav 1995; Pinker 1989). At one level, sometimes referred to as lexical conceptual structure (LCS) (Jackendoff 1983, 1990) or the thematic core (Pinker 1989), meaning is represented, particularly aspects of meaning that have consequences for other areas of the grammar.