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Conversion Syntaxique

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In this study, it is shown that the "category changing" property of morphological rules of conversion is unable to account for compound words, for formal and semantic reasons. Several convergent facts demonstrate that the compounding process is syntactic in nature. Consequently, it is argued that X-bar theory must be involved in compound word formation because of the "lexical function" of the syntax. Empirical data are mainly focused on French Noms Composés à base Verbale, or NCV, as tire-bouchon (cork screw),porte-parole (spoke person), gagne-pain (job), etc., which are analyzed as base generated "quasi-VPs" embedded in a NP. Thus, the NPWP exocentric dominance instantiates a "syntactic conversion" at the D-structure level. Such a categorial hierarchy is based on the "distribution changing" property of X-bar theory rather than on the "category changing" property of structuring morphological rules. Therefore, the high productivity of NCVs in French and other Romance languages is due to their morphology, which allows SPEC\HEAD agreement and VERB RAISING movement. The licensing of exocentric X-bar structures in grammar depends on several semantic principles of lexical interpretation, which are relevant to hyperonymy, hyponymy, meronymy, etc.. Thus, the model is dispensed with a superfluous component of "peripheral" rules of compounding. In conclusion, exocentricity of syntactic structures leads the author to claim that X-bar schema is primitive in grammar and that a given phrase is not the necessary projection of its head.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 1994

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