On the identity of roots

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173 Scopus citations


This paper attempts to articulate the essential nature of the notion 'root' in the morphosyntax. Adopting a realizational (Late Insertion) view of the morphosyntactic model, the question of whether roots are phonologically individuated, semantically individuated, or not individuated at all in the syntactic component are addressed in turn. It is argued that roots cannot be phonologically identified, since there are suppletive roots, and they cannot be semantically identified, since there are roots with highly variable semantic content, analogous to 'semantic suppletion'. And yet, they must be individuated in the syntax, since without such individuation, suppletive competition would be impossible. Roots must therefore be individuated purely abstractly, as independent indices on the node in the syntactic computation that serves as the linkage between a particular set of spell-out instructions and a particular set of interpretive instructions. It is further argued that the syntactic node behaves in a syntactically unexceptional way, merging with complement phrases and projecting a P. The correct formulation of locality restrictions on idiosyncratic phonological and semantic interpretations are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-276
Number of pages52
JournalTheoretical Linguistics
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Distributed Morphology
  • Elsewhere Condition
  • Hiaki (Yaqui)
  • allomorphy
  • allosemy
  • competition
  • idioms
  • one-replacement
  • unaccusatives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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