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Auteur: Hisao TOKIZAKI

Branching direction and the morphology-syntax connection

Abstract/Résumé: Morphology and syntax are differentiated by a number of criteria such as the atomicity of words (cf. Lieber and Scalise 2007). However, the distinction between morphology and syntax is not clear-cut (cf. Haspelmath 2010). This paper argues that the “word/phrase” nature of constructions depends on their branching direction. I propose that left-branching structure ([[LIGHT house] keeper]) is a “(compound) word” while right-branching structure ([light [HOUSE keeper]]) is a “phrase”. This definition has a number of consequences in comparative morphosyntax, including head parameter and compounding parameter. The strength of combination between elements depends on the branching direction. The difference of the combination strength stems from the asymmetry of juncture in syntax-phonology mapping. Left-branching structure is mapped onto phonology with strong juncture between its head and the branching complement. This idea of junctural asymmetry is supported by a number of phenomena in phonology, morphology and syntax: phonological changes blocked in right-branching structure, but not in left-branching structure, such as sequencial voicing in Japanese and n-insertion in Korean (Otsu 1980 and Han 1994), interfixation in tri-constituent compounds in Dutch and German (Krott, et al. 2004) and pseudo-incorporation of object into verb in OV in Dutch (Booij 2010). If we adopt branching direction as the definition of word/phrase distinction, we can explain degrees of “compounding” seen in the world. For example, compounding in Romance languages is not productive; there are some ‘compounds’ such as [DP una [N borsa [PP dell’ [NP acqua calda]]]], which are right-branching and phrase-like (cf. Scalise 1992). On the other hand, compounding in Germanic languages is productive; compounds in these languages typically are left-branching and word-like ([N [N light house] keeper]). It has been claimed that stress location is a diagnostics for the word/phrase status (Giegerich 2004). However, as Cinque (1993) argues, it is plausible that stress is assigned to the deepest element in a structure whether it is a compound or a phrase. Then, branching direction decides the deepest element in a structure. In this sense, branching direction determines word/phrase nature of construction. Typologically, languages have either right-branching or left-branching structure or both of them. Most languages are disharmonic in the direction of branching. In other words, languages may be disharmonic in head-complement orders. For example, we can investigate so-called phrasal compounds, one type of which has disharmonic head-complement order [[head-complement] head] ([[over the fence] gossip]). We can classify real phrasal compounds and other compound-like phrases with the idea of branching direction.