The morphology of nominalizations and the syntax of vP

Heidi Harley

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    132 Downloads (Pure)


    In English nominalizations one type of meaning shift – from event to result readings – seems to be quite productive and predictable. These meaning shifts do not affect the internal morphological structure of the nominalization, which entails that in a Distributed Morphology approach, the complete verbal internal structure must be present. However, they do affect the argument structure of the nominalization, ruling out the presence of the internal argument that is mandatory on the event interpretation (Grimshaw (1990)). This challenge to a DM approach to English nominalizations was first laid out in detail in Borer (2003a), as well as in Alexiadou (this volume) and Ackema & Neeleman (2004), and is taken up here. This chapter explores first what that internal structure must consist of, by considering the syntax of verb-particle constructions and their behaviour in mixed nominalizations, then identifies particular verbal morphemes with particular syntactic terminals. This points to certain conclusions about the structure of the verb phrase, and the meaning contributions of certain sub-components. Finally, some discussion is presented about the problem of how to derive the result nominalization meaning, given the necessary conclusion, for DM, that they have verbal syntactic structure contained within them.The central point is that taking the morphology–syntax relationship seriously strongly constrains what can be proposed in terms of a structural repre- sentation of nominalizations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationQuantification, Definiteness and Nominalization
    EditorsMonika Rathert, Anastasia Giannankidou
    Place of PublicationOxford, UK
    PublisherOxford University Press
    ISBN (Print)0199541094
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2009

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: Ackema, P and A. Neeleman. 2004. Beyond Morphology. Oxford: OUP
    Alexiadou, A. In prep. Chapter 2 of Issues in the Morphosyntax of Noun Phrases, Ms.
    Alexiadou, A. This volume. On the role of syntactic locality in morphological processes: the case of (Greek) deverbal nominals.
    Alexiadou, A. 2005. Gerund types, the present participle and patterns of derivation. In C. Maienborn & A. Wöllstein (eds) Event Arguments: foundations and applications. Niemeyer: Tübingen, 139-152.
    Alexiadou, A. 1999. Remarks on the Syntax of Process Nominals: An Ergative Pattern in Nominative-Accusative Languages. In Proceedings of NELS 29. Amherst, MA: GLSA, University of Massachusetts.
    Bierwisch, M. This volume. Nominalization: Lexical and syntactic aspects.
    Borer, H. 2003. Exo-skeletal vs. Endo-skeletal explanations: Syntactic Projections and the Lexicon. In John Moore and Maria Polinsky (eds), The nature of explanation in linguistic theory. Stanford: CSLI.
    Borer, H. 2005. Structuring Sense. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Chomsky, N. 1970. Remarks on nominalization. Readings in English transformational grammar, eds. R. Jacobs and P. Rosenbaum, 184-221. Waltham, MA: Blaisdell.
    Chomsky, N. 1995. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    Collins, C. 2005. A smuggling approach to the passive in English. Syntax 8.2:81–120.
    den Dikken, M. 1995. Particles. Oxford: OUP
    Engelhardt, M. 2000. The projection of argument-taking nominals. NLLT 18: 41-88.
    Embick, D. 2000. Features, Syntax, and Categories in the Latin Perfect. Linguistic Inquiry 31.185-230
    Folli, R. and H. Harley. 2006. Waltzing Matilda. Studia Linguistica 60.2: 1-35.
    Folli, R. and H. Harley. 2007. Causation, obligation and argument structure: On the nature of little v. Linguistic Inquiry 38.2, 197-238
    Fu, J., Roeper, T. and Borer, H. 2001. The VP within process nominals: Evidence from adverbs and the VP anaphor do-so. NLLT 19, 549-582.
    Giannakidou, A. and J. Merchant.1999. Why Giannis can’t scrub his plate clean: On the absence of resultative secondary predication in Greek. In A. Mozer (ed.), Greek Linguistics ‘97: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Greek Linguistics. Ellinika Grammata, Athens. 93-103.
    Grimshaw, Jane. 1990. Argument Structure. Cambridge, MIT Press.
    Guéron, J. In press. On the difference between telicity and perfectivity. To appear, Lingua.
    Harley, H. 1999. Denominal verbs and aktionsart. In Liina Pylkkänen, Angeliek van Hout and Heidi Harley, eds, MITWPL 35: Papers from the UPenn/MIT Roundtable on the Lexicon, 73-86. Cambridge, MA: MITWPL, MIT.
    Harley H. 2005. How do verbs get their names? The aktionsart of denominal verbs and the ontology of verb roots in English.' In Shir and Rapaport, eds, The Syntax of Aspect, pp. 42-64, Oxford: OUP.
    Harley, H. 2007. "External arguments: On the independence of Voice° and v°". Talk presented at the 30th GLOW meeting, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway, April 12-14, 2007.
    Harley, H. and R. Noyer. 1998. 'Mixed nominalizations, short verb movement and object shift in English.' In Proceedings of NELS 28. Amherst, MA: GLSA, University of Massachusetts.
    Harley, H. and R. Noyer. 2000. Licensing in the non-lexicalist lexicon. In B. Peeters, ed., The Lexicon/Encyclopedia Interface, pp 349-374. Amsterdam: Elsevier Press.
    van Hout, A. and T. Roeper. 1999. Events and Aspectual Structure in Derivational Morphology. In Heidi Harley, ed, MITWPL 32: Papers from the UPenn/MIT Roundtable on Argument Structure and Aspect, pp. 175-200. Cambridge, MA: MITWPL, MIT.
    Jackendoff, R. 1991. 'Parts and Boundaries.' Cognition 41, 9-45.
    Johnson, K. 1991. 'Object Positions.' Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 9: 577-636.
    Kawai, Naomi Kei. 1997. An event structure analysis of derived verbs in English. Masters thesis, University of Calgary.
    Koizumi, Masatoshi. 1993. 'Object agreement phrases and the split VP hypothesis.' In MIT Working Papers in Linguistics 18: Papers on Case and Agreement I, 99-148. Cambridge: MITWPL.
    Kratzer, Angelika. 1993. On External Arguments. University of Massachusetts (Amherst) Occasional Papers 17, 103-130.
    Kratzer, Angelika. 1996. Severing the external argument from its verb. In J. Rooryck and L. Zaring, eds., Phrase Structure and the Lexicon, pp. 109-137. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
    Lasnik, H. 1999. On feature strength: Three minimalist approaches to overt movement. Linguistic Inquiry 30:197-217.
    Lees, R. 1961. The Grammar of English Nominalizations. Blomington: Indiana University Press
    Merchant, Jason. 2007. Voice and ellipsis. Ms., University of Chicago.
    Marantz, A. 1997. 'No escape from syntax: Don’t try morphological analysis in the privacy of your own lexicon.' In A. Dimitriadis, & L. Siegel, (Eds.), University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics, 4.2 (pp. 201-225). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics.
    Marantz, Alec. 2001. 'Words.' Talk presented at WCCFL, UCLA.
    Newmeyer, Frederick. To appear. Current challenges to the Lexicalist hypothesis: An overview and a critique. In Will Lewis, Simin Karimi, Heidi Harley, and Scott Farrar (eds.), Time and again: Papers in Honor of D. Terence Langendoen. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
    Pylkkanen, L. 2002. Introducing Arguments. PhD. Dissertation, MIT.
    Ramchand, G. In press. Verb meaning and the lexicon: A First phase syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ms. available at
    Ramchand, Gillian & Peter Svenonius. 2002. 'The lexical syntax and lexical semantics of the verb-particle construction.' In: WCCFL 21 Proceedings, ed. L. Mikkelsen & C. Potts, 387-400. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press
    Roeper, T. and A. van Hout. This volume. The representation of movement in -ability nominalizations: Evidence for covert category movement, edge phenomena, and local LF.
    Rosen, S. T. 1999. The Syntactic Representation of Linguistic Events. A State-of-the-Article. Glot International, 4, 3-10.
    Runner, Jeffrey. 1995. Noun phrase licensing and interpretation. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
    Sawai, Naomi. 1997. An event structure analysis of derived verbs in English. Master's thesis, University of Calgary.
    Siegel, Laura. 1998. Gerundive nominals and Aspect. In Proceedings of ESCOL '97, Austin, J. and A. Lawson (eds), CLC Publications, 1998. Available at
    Siloni, T. This volume. Nominal voices.
    Travis, L. 1991, Inner Aspect and the Structure of VP. In Proceedings of NELS XXII, University of Delaware. Amherst, MA: GLSA, University of Massachusetts.
    Travis, Lisa. In press. Inner Aspect. To appear with Elsevier. Ms. available at
    van Hout, A. 1996. Event semantics of verb frame alternations. TILDIL Dissertation Series.


    Dive into the research topics of 'The morphology of nominalizations and the syntax of vP'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this