Without Specifiers: Phrase Structure and Events

Terje Lohndal

This dissertation attempts to unify two reductionist hypotheses: that there is no relational difference between specifiers and complements, and that verbs do not have thematic arguments. I argue that these two hypotheses actually bear on each other and that we get a better theory if we pursue both of them.

The thesis is centered around the following hypothesis: Each application of Spell-Out corresponds to a conjunct at logical form. In order to create such a system, it is necessary to provide a syntax that is designed such that each Spell-Out domain is mapped into a conjunct. This is done by eliminating the relational difference between specifiers and complements. The conjuncts are then conjoined into Neo-Davidsonian representations that constitute logical forms. The theory is argued to provide a transparent mapping from syntactic structures to logical forms, such that the syntax gives you a logical form where the verb does not have any thematic arguments. In essence, the thesis is therefore an investigation into the structure of verbs.

This theory of Spell-Out raises a number of questions and it makes strong predictions about the structure of possible derivations. The thesis discusses a number of these: the nature of linearization and movement, left-branch extractions, serial verb constructions, among others. It is shown how the present theory can capture these phenomena, and sometimes in better ways than previous analyses.

The thesis closes by discussing some more foundational issues related to transparency, the syntax-semantics interface, and the nature of basic semantic composition operations.