Light Verb Raising, Empty Preposition and Zero Derivation

  • P. Madhavan
Part of the Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory book series (SNLT, volume 61)

English has a fairly large number of zero derived denominal verbs like shelve, saddle and calve. Hale and Keyser (1983) have analysed pairs such as saddleNsaddlev as cases of incorporation, where the verb is derived by incorporation of the noun into an empty P and a light v. They take this to be successive cyclic head movement. In this paper, we try to relate the complete absence of denominal verbs like saddle in Malayalam to the fact that Malayalam has no empty preposition. The main proposal of this paper is that languages have to make a parametric choice: whether or not to allow an empty head of [-N] category in syntax. We show that Malayalam chooses the negative value while English chooses the positive value. Then we show that there are no zero verbs either and generalise the proposal to [-N] categories. Supporting evidence for this assumption comes from a range of apparently unrelated facts in the language. We show that each is linked to a zero verb/preposition in some way and that together they provide strong empirical support for the claim.

The paper has nine sections. In section 2 we give an exposition of the incorporation analysis of denominal verbs. This is followed by a detailed account of Malayalam unaccusative and transitive verbs, in section 3. In section 4 we discuss the unergatives highlighting the differences with English, which paves the way for the formulation of the hypothesis. Then the dative shift is discussed, in the light of Baker’s arguments to show that it is not like the diathesis alternations, for which we present further proof from Malayalam. Section 6 looks at complementisers and the Exceptional Case Marking. Syntax in morphology is addressed in the next section. Section 8 revisits some technical problems left open earlier and propose tentative solutions, and the last section deals with the learnability aspect of the proposed parameter.


Argument Structure Embed Clause Transitive Verb Accusative Case Derivational Morphology 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. Madhavan
    • 1
  1. 1.Central Institute of English and Foreign LanguagesHyderabadIndia

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