Little v as domain/phase delimiter
Lisa deMena Travis, McGill University
Among the many functions of little v, one is to delimit a domain (thematic domain:
Grohman (2003); l-syntactic domain: Hale and Keyser (1993)) or a phase (e.g. Chomsky
(2001)). I will investigate this use of little v, using syntactic, semantic, and, in particular,
phonological evidence, to examine possible fine-tuning of the edge of the vP. There are three
questions in particular that I will examine.
• Does v send VP to Spell-out?
• Are there heads between T and v that could be phase heads?
• Can the domain of vP be extended?
First, using phonological arguments, I will show that v does not send its complement to
Spell-out but rather v along with VP must be spelled out in the same phase. The relevant
data come from Malayalam lexical causatives as discussed in Marantz (2007) and Michaels
(2009) where lexical causative morphemes, arguably in v, can be seen to be within the
first phase in terms of the type of phonology that they exhibit. We see the relevant data
below where the lexical causative triggers fusion because the causative suffix, -kk, is attached
within a phase (1b) and the productive causative triggers vowel insertion because the same
morpheme is attached outside the phase (1c).
(1) a. booṭṭ@ muNN-i
‘The boat sank.’
b. kuṭṭi booṭṭ@ mu-kk-i.
child boat sink-cause-past
‘The child sank the boat.’
c. kuṭṭi booṭṭ@ muNN-icc-u.
child boat sink-cause-past ‘The child caused the boat to sink.’
Using semantic arguments, I claim that head movement cannot explain this tauto-phasal
behaviour. I follow Marantz (2007) and Travis (2000) in assuming that both semantic
and phonological idiosyncratic behaviour can occur within the first phase. Then I provide
arguments from VP ellipsis (see Goldberg 2005) that heads are interpreted in their merged
positions. If this is the case, semantic idiosyncrasies occurring between v and V point to
their being merged within the same Spell-out domain.
Second, using phonological arguments from lexical versus productive causatives in Malagasy,
I propose that another functional head above v (E as in Travis (2000)) is also spelled
out within this first phase. In Malagasy there is an extra morpheme, f-, that appears between
the lexical causative prefix and the productive causative prefix. Using a root that begins
with f to create a minimal contrast, we can see that when the causative morpheme attaches
within a phase, fusion occurs (n+f →m) but when the causative morpheme attaches across
a phase boundary, prenasalization occurs (n+f → m p).
(2) Productive causative (PC)
PC of lexical causative m+an+f+an+fatra mampamatra
‘z makes y measure x’ n+f→ m p; n+f→m
Third, I argue that the domain of the first phase (EP) cannot be extended in the manner
suggested by Embick (2010) to account for root allomorphy in, for example, English. This
is clear in Ojibwe where tense morphemes are attached outside of the first phase. In Ojibwe,
vowel hiatus is resolved through V deletion within a phase and across phase boundaries
allowed to remain (see Piggott and Newell (2005) for details). We can see in the example
below that vowel hiatus remains unresolved following the tense prefix, indicating that Tense
must be outside of the first phase.
(3) a. wi:a:gamose:
‘he will walk in snowshoes’
‘he walked in snowshoes’
If domains cannot be extended, a question is raised about the domain of root allomorphy. I
will explore this question further without necessarily arriving at a solution.
The take-home message is that phonological and semantic data can be used to investigate
what at first might appear to be a purely syntactic issue arriving at a more fine-tuned
understanding of the role of v.
Chomsky, N. (2001). Derivation by phase. In Kenstowicz, M., editor, Ken Hale: A Life in
Linguistics, pages 1–52. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Embick, D. (2010). Localism versus Globalism in Morphology and Phonology. MIT Press,
Goldberg, L. M. (2005). Verb-Stranding VP Ellipsis: A Cross-Linguistic Study. PhD thesis,
McGill University, Montreal.
Grohmann, K. K. (2003). Prolific Domains: On the Anti-Locality of Movement
Dependencies. John Benjamins, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Hale, K. and Keyser, S. J. (1993). On argument structure and the lexical expression of
syntactic relations. In Hale, K. and Keyser, S. J., editors, The view from building 20,
pages 53–110. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Marantz, A. (2007). Phases and words. In Choe, S.-H., editor, Phases in the Theory of
Grammar, pages 191–222. Dong In, Seoul.
Michaels, J. (2009). To alternate or not to alternate: What is the boundary? In North East
Linguistic Society 40 (NELS 40).
Piggott, G. and Newell, H. (2005). Syllabification and the spell-out of phases in Ojibwa
words. In McGill Working Papers in Linguistics 20. McGill Department of Linguistics.
Travis, L. d. (2000). The L-syntax/S-syntax boundary: Evidence from Austronesian. In
Paul, I., Phillips, V., and Travis, L., editors, Formal Issues in Austronesian Linguistics,
pages 167–194. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.