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Phrase structure vs. dependency: The analysis of Welsh syntactic soft mutation1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2009

MAGGIE TALLERMAN*
Affiliation:
Newcastle University
*
Author's address: Linguistics Section, Newcastle University, Percy Building, Newcastle upon TyneNE1 7RU, UKmaggie.tallerman@ncl.ac.uk

Abstract

Most familiar syntactic frameworks recognize the category ‘phrase’, and are built around phrase structure relationships. However, the Word Grammar dependency model does not acknowledge the category ‘phrase’ as a primitive in the grammar; instead, all relationships are word-based, with phrases having no syntactic status. Here, I investigate the theoretical validity of the notion ‘phrase’ by examining the phenomenon in Welsh known as syntactic soft mutation, contrasting a phrase-based account with a dependency account. I conclude that an empirically adequate analysis of syntactic soft mutation must make reference to phrases as a category, thus ruling out the dependency account. A further theoretical question concerns the role played in the grammar by syntactically present but phonetically unrealized elements, including empty categories such as wh-traces and unrealized material in ellipsis. Syntactic soft mutation proves an interesting testing ground in these contexts, but the data again fail to support the dependency account. The conclusion is that a phrase-based account of the mutation is better motivated and empirically more accurate than the alternative dependency account.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2009 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

[1]

I acknowledge with gratitude my extensive debt to Richard Hudson, who has been of great help concerning the details and predictions of the dependency analysis. I would also like to thank Bob Borsley and David Willis, whose detailed, thoughtful and encouraging comments on various drafts have greatly improved this paper, as have three helpful reports from JL referees. I also gratefully acknowledge the British Academy conference grant which enabled the Fifth Celtic Linguistics Conference to be held at Gregynog in 2007, at which an earlier version of this paper was presented. Needless to say, none of the above is responsible in any way for what follows.

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