Stefan Müller » Publications » Argument Structure

Lexical Approaches to Argument Structure

Authors: Stefan Müller and Stephen Wechsler

Subject Areas: Argument Structure, Lexicalism, Valency, Coordination, Construction Grammar, HPSG, GPSG, Categorial Grammar, Neo-Davidsonianism, Morphology, Syntax, Language acquisition, Coercion, Statistics

This article appeared 2014 in Theoretical Linguistics 40(1–2), 1–76.

This paper compares various approaches to argument structure. We start out presenting the lexical proposal that we want to defend in this paper. We then introduce phrasal proposals that are common in Construction Grammar. A historical section describes the oscillation between early lexical proposals in Categorial Grammar, phrasal approaches in phrase structure grammar (early Transformational Grammar, GPSG) back to lexical approaches in HPSG and Minimalism. We argue that there were good reasons for returning to lexical models and that the respective issues are not addressed in phrasal approaches. We go on discussing approaches that assume that semantically compatible verbs are inserted into phrasal constructions and point out that lexical specification of valence plays an important role in various levels of description and that phrasal models can not account for this. A similar criticism applies to so-called Neodavidsonian approaches, which are discussed in a separate section.

We will show that certain relations between constructions cannot be captured with inheritance or unification but require transformations or lexical rules, and hence in non-transformational syntax the lexical approach is the only option.

Three sections are devoted to arguments from language acquisition, psycholinguistics, and statistics. We show that contrary to frequent claims the respective experiments do not provide evidence for phrasal constructions.

We conclude that argument structure properties should be represented together with lexical items.

Draft of June 04, 2014: