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Syntax Interface Lectures Utrecht


10 October 2019
16:00 - 17:00
Trans 10, room 0.19 (A.W. de Grootkamer)

Marijke De Belder (Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg)

Category-specific syllable structures

In this talk I present an experiment that shows that speakers of Dutch have intuitions on the category of a pseudoword. They ‘feel’ that the pseudoword ‘pardijf’ is fine as a noun -but not as a verb-, ‘streumel’, on the other hand, feels more like a verb. The syllable structure of the words steers this intuition (Trommelen 1989 and see Don & Erkelens 2006).

In typological literature, it has been observed that, cross-linguistically, a word’s suprasegmental phonological properties may be related to its category. The prosody of verbs is much more restricted than nominal prosody (Smith 2011). This seems to be true for Dutch as well. The morphological bases of morphologically simplex non-Latinate verbs are restricted to a single syllable (e.g. kom ‘come’, German) or a single syllable plus a reduced syllable (e.g. fluister ‘whisper’), whereas nouns can be polysyllabic (e.g. konijn ‘rabbit’). An analysis for the Dutch patterns could thus contribute to our general understanding of the phenomenon.

I hypothesise that the account of the phenomenon is to be found in morphosyntax. This part of the project will be embedded in the framework of Distributed Morphology. In this framework one finds morphosyntactic approaches to category-specific phonological restrictions. Various categories may differ as the words are built differently per category: structural differences result in phonological differences (Bobaljik 1998, 2006, Arad 2005, Holmberg & Wang 2019). Present proposals are limited to non-Indo-European languages. It is at this point an open question whether and how such explanatory insights can be applied to Germanic languages.