Roots, their structure and consequences for derivational timing


Kučerová, Ivona, and Adam Szczegielniak. 2019. “Roots, their structure and consequences for derivational timing.” The Linguistic Review 36 (3): 365–387. Copy at
Roots, their structure and consequences for derivational timing


Recent work in Distributed Morphology, most prominently Harley (2014), argues for roots being able to take syntactic complements, which opens the door for the possibility of having syntactic features within a root’s representation – something most DM literature rejects (Embick 2015). Upon a closer inspection of the arguments presented in the literature, it is not clear whether the disagreement has an empirical underpinning, or whether it stems from the lack of methodological clarity as far as the identification of the precise nature of what constitutes a syntactic feature. This paper takes this methodological question seriously and investigates a type of derivational behavior that, in our view, provides a decisive argument for the presence of syntactic features on roots. We argue that the presence of a syntactic feature on the root can be conclusively established based on a feature’s impact on specific properties within a larger syntactic structure. Based on empirical evidence form gender agreement phenomena, we introduce a model of grammar that distinguishes roots with syntactic features from those which do not have them. We propose that such a distinction between roots will manifest itself in the timing of root insertion – roots without syntactic features are late inserted, while roots with syntactic features must be early inserted.

Keywords: gender agreement; late insertion; roots; syntactic features

Publisher's Version

ISSN: 1613-3676
Last updated on 11/04/2019