Towards a Projection-based Lexico-Syntactic Interface in Sentence Construction

| January 7, 2014

December 2009
Volume 4 Issue 2

| December 2009 home | PDF version |

Towards a Projection-based Lexico-Syntactic Interface in Sentence Construction

Azam Karimi
Department of English Language Translation,
Imam Khomeini International University, Iran

Firooz Sadighi
Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics, Shiraz University, Iran

Azam Karimi, Ph.D. (Shiraz University), is currently an assistant professor and teaches undergraduate courses at the Department of English Language Teaching and Translation in Imam Khomeini International University. His research interests are language teaching and learning, TELSI and culture.

Firooz Sadighi, Ph. D. (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), is a professor of Applied Linguistics and teaches graduate courses (M.A. and Ph.D.) in Applied Linguistics at Shiraz University. His primary research interests are linguistics, language teaching and learning.


A long-lived question in characterizing the nature of sentence construction persistently challenged and still unresolved is whether it is possible to detach the knowledge of lexicon from syntax. Since early eighties, various models of the lexicon-syntax interface have been proposed, meaning that a wide range of the contemporary theories of lexicon and syntax have been preoccupied with the issue. Meanwhile, one cannot abstain from proceeding back and forth along the structuralist continuum stretching from one extreme to another, one dwelling on the lexicon-syntax interface within the generativist linguistics domain highlighting Government-Binding, and principles and parameters all stressing on the fact that the characteristics of the lexical items project onto the syntax of the sentence (Cook & Newson, 1996), and the other persisting with the disintegration of the two elements. The latter assumption adheres to a pure structuralist hypothesis with little or no emphasis on the lexical items as the essential building blocks of language formation and the former progresses along the same lines as Bolinger’s (1975) claim that “There is a vast amount of grammatical detail still to be dug out of lexicon- so much that by the time we are through there may be little point in talking about grammar and lexicon as if they were two different things” (p. 299), with an emphasis on the integration of lexicon and syntax.

In accordance with these assumptions, the present study is framed to formulate a competitive analysis of these two structuralist theories against data from the subjects’ verbal accounts in the form of task performance in order to evaluate the claims put forth by these theories as to the nature of the lexicon-syntax integration or insulation. So the paper sets out the aim of providing the following question with an empirically-based suitable answer regarding how lexical information is deployed in syntactic structure in real-time linguistic events: Does sentence construction take place with an emphasis on separation of the knowledge of lexicon and grammar or integration of the two? On this ground, a number of 18 senior English major students studying in the English department of Shiraz University participated in the study. The analyzed data show consistency with an integration-based claim supporting the view that lexicon must be an active component of the grammar

Key Words: lexicon, syntax, lexicon-syntax interface, subcategorization, Projection Principle

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Category: 2009