How Semantics Dictates the Syntactic Vocabulary

  • Hedde Zeijlstra


In this paper I argue that the set of formal features that can head a functional projection is not given by UG but derived through L1 acquisition. I formulate a hypothesis that says that initially every functional category F is realised as a semantic feature [F]; whenever there is an overt doubling effect in the L1 input with respect to F, this semantic feature [F] is reanalysed as a formal feature [i/uF]. In the first part of the paper I provide a theoretical motivation for this hypothesis, in the second part I test this proposal for a case-study, namely the cross-linguistic distribution of Negative Concord (NC). I demonstrate that in NC languages negation has been reanalysed as a formal feature [i/uNEG], whereas in Double Negation languages this feature remains a semantic feature [NEG] (always interpreted as a negative operator), thus paving the way for an explanation of NC in terms of syntactic agreement. In the third part I discuss that the application of the hypothesis to the phenomenon of negation yields two predictions that can be tested empirically. First I demonstrate that negative markers X° can be available only in NC languages; second, independent change of the syntactic status of negative markers, can invoke a change with respect to the exhibition of NC in a particular language. Both predictions are proven to be correct. I finally argue what the consequences of the proposal presented in this paper are for both the syntactic structure of the clause and second for the way parameters are associated to lexical items.
How to Cite
Zeijlstra, H. (2019). How Semantics Dictates the Syntactic Vocabulary. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 10(2), 437-452.