Icelandic nominalizations and allosemy
Jim Wood
September 2022

The broad aim of this book is to bring a basic, but detailed description of Icelandic nominalizations to bear on the general theoretical and architectural issues that nominalizations have raised since the earliest work in generative syntax. While nominalization has long been central to theories of argument structure, and Icelandic has been an important language for the study of argument structure and syntax, Icelandic has not been brought into the general body of theoretical work on nominalization. In this book, I show that Icelandic-specific issues in the analysis of derived nominals have broad implications that go beyond the study of that one language. In particular, Icelandic provides special evidence that Complex Event Nominals (CENs), which seem to inherit their argument structure from the underlying verbs, can be formed without nominalizing a full verb phrase. This conclusion is at odds with prominent theories of nominalization which claim that CENs have the properties that they have precisely because they involve the nominalization of full verb phrases. More narrowly, I aim to develop the theory of allosemy within the framework of Distributed Morphology to account for the ambiguity of nominalizations and inheritance of argument structure. In so doing, I will show how one single syntactic structure can get distinct semantic interpretations corresponding to the range of readings that are available to derived nominals. The idea is that just as the phonological realization of terminal nodes is underspecified in syntax (so that before Vocabulary Insertion, past tense -ed and past tense -t are the same T[PAST] head), the semantic interpretation of terminal nodes is underspecified in syntax as well. Late insertion at LF inserts suppletive allosemes---semantic denotations---into terminal nodes that are underspecified semantically. I argue that the single structure at issue derives a noun from a verb before any arguments are attached, by adjoining a lexical root to a v(erb) head and adjoining the resulting verb to a n(oun) head. In addition to showing how an account grounded in allosemy can derive the ambiguity, I also explore the consequences of building nominalizations entirely with complex heads for the locality of special meanings, and articulate the function of prepositions and prefixing in Icelandic lexical meaning.

The result is a broad argument for what Icelandic nominalizations tell us about argument structure and the syntax-semantics interface, along with an articulated theoretical proposal that makes several novel claims about the syntax-semantics interface within Distributed Morphology.

***Note that this version is an extensive revision all chapters, and is now over 90 pages longer than the original 2020 manuscript. Comments are welcome!***
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005004
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Book-length manuscript under active revision -- Comments/Feedback welcome!
keywords: nominalization, icelandic, argument structure, prepositions, prefixing, allosemy, allomorphy, distributed morphology, morphology, syntax
previous versions: v2 [November 2021]
v1 [January 2020]
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