LINGUIST List 15.2472

Tue Sep 7 2004

Diss: Morphology/Syntax: McFadden: 'The Position ...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. tom, The Position of Morphological Case in the Derivation...

Message 1: The Position of Morphological Case in the Derivation...

Date: Tue, 7 Sep 2004 07:34:53 -0400 (EDT)
From: tom <>
Subject: The Position of Morphological Case in the Derivation...

Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Thomas McFadden 

Dissertation Title: The Position of Morphological Case in the
Derivation: a study on the syntax-morphology interface

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field: Linguistic Theories, Morphology, Syntax

Dissertation Director 1: Anthony Kroch
Dissertation Director 2: David Embick
Dissertation Director 3: Beatrice Santorini
Dissertation Director 4: Alec Marantz

Dissertation Abstract: 

The main thesis of this dissertation is that morphological case is a
purely morphological phenomenon, determined exclusively within the
post-Spell-out portion of the derivation on the branch leading to PF.
As such, case will depend in large part on the output of the
pre-Spell-out narrow syntax, but the narrow syntax will not be able to
make reference to or depend in any way on morphological case. I
motivate this thesis by presenting extensive evidence that, contrary
to what has been assumed since the late 1970s, morphological case is
completely independent of the principles of positional DP-licensing
that have been called syntactic or abstract Case. I then examine a
series of syntactic phenomena which have been argued to depend
crucially on morphological case. Specifically, I demonstrate that the
interpretation and syntactic behavior of DPs marked with semantic and
inherent cases is not due to their special case-marking. Rather,
these DPs are distinguished from others by the syntactic structures in
which they appear, and it is these structures that are responsible for
both their special case-marking and their special syntactico-semantic
behavior. I also present a series of empirical and theoretical
arguments against making the syntactic processes that derive
word-order freedom directly dependent within the synchronic grammar on
rich morphological case-marking. I then develop a theory of
morphological case-assignment, and show that the treatment of the
actual morphology need make no reference to operations that are proper
to the narrow syntax, either for the determination of which cases will
appear or for the placement of the case-markers themselves. Finally,
I reconsider syntactic Case in the light of the other results of the
dissertation and explore the possibility that it could be eliminated
from the theory, showing that, even for the regulation of subject
positions in embedded clauses, where it is supposed to play its most
important role, it offers no real insight into the distribution of
DPs. At best it is largely stipulative, and at worst it makes the
wrong empirical predictions.
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