ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-48039-2000

5.1. The Lexicalist or Projectionist Approach

Most current linguistic theories assume that the syntactic structure of a sentence depends to a large extent on the lexical properties of the verbs or other predicates that head them. The meaning of the verb becomes, then, the central element whose argument structure determines the overall syntactic shape of the clause. This tendency towards what some have called, in its most extreme form, radical lexicalism has been one of the major forces at work in the last two decades of linguistic research.

Already by the mid-eighties, this view of the relation between lexical semantics and syntactic structure was predominant in Linguistics, as Thomas Wasow pointed out in his Postscript to Peter Sells’ introduction to GB, GPSG and LFG, three of the most influential syntactic theories at the time:

Another basic idea embodied in these three theories is that clause structure is largely predictable from the semantics of predicates. That is, if you know what a verb (or a predicative adjective or noun) means, you can tell a great deal about what else will occur in a clause it heads. Grammar rules are needed only to state certain language-wide generalizations about how the pieces of sentences are put together and to deal with apparent exceptions to the normal patterns. Most of what was stipulated in the grammars of earlier theories is taken to be a function of lexical semantics. (Wasow 1985: 203)
In Government and Binding Theory, for example, this view is manifested in the Theta-Criterion, in the Projection Principle (Chomsky 1981, 1986) and in Chomsky’s (1986) idea that s-selection (semantic-selection) of the lexical entry of the verb can determine the syntactic type and grammatical function of each argument (c[onstituent]-selection). In LFG, the Bijection principle embodies this position.
An example will serve to illustrate the essence of the lexicalist or projectionist view.
(5.1) The bottle floated into the cave
Under this view, the final syntactic shape and the meaning of the sentence would be determined by the lexical entry of the verb. In this case, it would be postulated that there is a lexical entry for float that requires a theme and a goal. From those lexical requirements, the whole structure of the sentence would be derived. The way in which this is done is theory-dependent, as is the relationship between this entry of float and the other entries for float, such as the one that does not take a directional the bottle floated for two hours or the causative I floated the bottle. To achieve their goal, all lexicalist theories need an articulated theory of the lexical semantic representation and a theory of the mapping between this representation and syntax.
The wide range of issues involved in a full-fledged theory of lexical semantic representation and a theory of the mapping from this representation to the syntactic structure of the sentence are at the core of what linguistic theorizing has been at least since the times of Panini. In this short section, there is no space to do justice to the large number of proposals and to the immense amount of knowledge that has accumulated, especially in the last few decades. Only a brief overview of the main ideas will be given, following three recent formulations: Dowty’s (1991) seminal paper, the EAGLES Preliminary Recommendations on Semantic Encoding (EAGLES 1998) and Levin and Rappaport Hovav (1996).

Anterior  I  Siguiente  I  Índice capítulo 5   I Índice General

ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-48039-2000