Lexical Insertion

Linguistics 322


Contents: D-structure | Lexical Insertion

Let us first consider the following sentence:

1.     John died.

It's logical structure is shown in (2). TP is an operator whose head is TENSE (T). The argument of T is VP; actually this is not quite correct. Its real argument in RP. However, the following is an abbreviation to keep the discussion simple:


At first glance, it appears that we would go to the lexicon and place an appropriate lexical or grammatical item for each operator and predicate. Abstract morphemes, regardless of their propostional function, must be sent to the lexicon where the appropriate phonological form will be assigned. To illustrate this, suppose we send the predicate DIE, an abstract morpheme, to the lexicon, and "die" is returned. And suppose we send [+Past] to the lexicon, and suppose further that "-ed" is returned to represent the feature [+Past]. All of this we will soon have to revise, which we will explain as we go along. We will label "-ed" as 'T' or Vtense to represent the grammatical category [TENSE]. When a lexical item is inserted, we will represent its lexical category in the form familiar to you:


V is the head of VP, whose complement is John. By convention, the all phrases have two two levels: a head and a phrasal level. Therefore, N must be expanded to included NP dominating N. Since VP is an argument of T, then TP must dominate its head T and its argument:


The structure in (4) is what is often called a "deep structure" or a "D-structure." Structures are well formed in terms of the base rules (category and phrase marking). At this point a series of transformational rules apply--they are syntactic rules. No further rules referring to conceptual forms will apply.

Figure (4) represents the string:

(5)     -Ed die John.

(5) is obviously not a sentence of English, even though the morphemes appear to be English. "-ed" is a suffix which implies that it should be affixed to some form called a host. Somehow, the suffix must be attached to a host. The rules of English grammar that the host for tense affixes must be a verb. There are two choices of attaining this goal: the suffix can either lower to the main verb and be adjoined to it; or the main verb can raise to the suffix and be adjoined to it. Note that either movement can apply yielding the same result. We assume that only one of these movements should apply. The question is which one?

The evidence is found in transitive verbs:

(6)     Liberace slowly played the piano.

The propositional structure in linear form is:

(7)    [TENSE [+Past] < SLOWLY PLAY <theme: PIANO> <agent: LIBERACE> ].

Lexical insertion derives the following D-structure:


Now, suppose play is raised and adjoined to T:

(9)    played slowly  the piano Liberace.

And once Liberace is moved to the subject position (go to internal.subject.hypothesis and 322.raising.htm) we get the following ungrammatical string:

(10)    *Liberace played slowly the piano.

Thus, moving the verb up to T yields the incorrect ordering of the adverb. Now, let's lower T to the verb. We get the following grammatical string:

(11)     slowly played the piano Liberace

(12)     Liberace slowly played the piano.

Let us now adopt the rule that lowers the affix T to the verb.

(13)    Tense affixes are lowered to the verb.

This rule is motivated by the following principle:

(14)    Definition: Bound Form

        A bound form is marked by the feature [+Bound].

       *[+Bouund] if [+Bound] has no host.

A bound form requires a host or the structure will crash.

Crash means that the sentence is rendered ungrammatical.

Contents: D-structure | Lexical Insertion

Next, go to Lowering.

To go to

raising click here

ambiguity click here

lexical insertion (2) click here

internal subject hypothesis  click here

To return to

222 course outline click here

322 course outline click here